The Mail & Guardian profiles four emerging musical talents of 2010 — based in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town — who have shown promise and have big plans for 2011.
“Our music could be classified as electro-future soul or avant-garde. It’s very experimental in its essence, with loads of synth sounds as well as break beats; it’s really the type of sound that takes you on a musical journey. After coming down from it, you can decide what genre to classify it as, ” lead vocalist Kim Hassan told the M&G.
Meridian — made up of Hassan and Seth Williams, also on vocals and on production — are currently based in Cape Town but plan to go international.
Like most bands they hope to see themselves performing on the international stage, “sharing their music and message with the rest of the world, showcasing South Africa’s potential” and talent.
Hassan participated in South African musical talent search Popstars in 2003 before performing with Cape Town act The Unknowns at clubs. She was later discovered by Camilo Lombard at Generations Cafe at a jam session, and was asked to audition as a backing vocalist for a jazz guitarist who Lombard was a keyboard player for.
“They were preparing for a gig that would be going on tour. Later I would discover, on the day of the audition, that I was in fact auditioning for a place as a backing vocalist for Sama-winning jazz legend Jimmy Dludlu, to be part of his band that was about to do a promo tour for the 2005, album Corners of My Soul. I was elated.”
Before Meridian, Williams performed spoken word and sang within a now-dissolved group previously known as Yellow Feet.
“I studied music level two at Stellenbosch University along with voice while completing my degree in international studies. It proved to be interfering with my studies and at the end of it all I found myself having to focus all my energy on completing my degree.”
He taught himself everything from chords on the piano to programming.
“We draw inspiration from artists like Herbie Hancock, Patrice Rushen, Miles Davis, Meshel Ndegeocello, Flying Lotus, Bjork, Apex Twin, Mushroom Jazz, Portishead, life experiences — our own and of those around us. The past, present and future.”
They rate their performances at Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel in Cape Town, Cafe Portobello in Long Street and other open-mic poetry sessions held at The Melting Pot in Muizenburg as career highlights thus far.
It is no coincide that Pretoria-based band Make-Overs chose that name.
“We feel we should always progress and that albums can vary from one another. At the moment, however, for the set and album, we can be seen as garage punk, indie, alternative, rock’n’roll and surf rock,” Martinique Pelser told the M&G.
Both band members, Andreas Schonfeldt (guitar, vocals and loops) and Pelser (drums, vocals and samples), have had an interest in music since a very young age, with previous involvement in other bands.
Make-Overs have just finished recording their first album, titled MC1R on the 16th Chromosome.
“The name MC1R on the 16th Chromosome has a deeper meaning: we are both natural redheads, therefore we both have the same mutation, and we read a lot of interesting facts about redheads, the one about being mutants stuck with us.”
The CD will be launched in December 2010.
The duo say they have always been fiercely independent and like to have a “strong hands-on approach”.
They recorded, mixed and mastered, designed and wrote the songs themselves.
“No other artist was featured and no one else worked with us.”
They started their first set in June this year, and after two months they had 30 songs.
“We recorded 20 of those tracks and chose the 14 tracks we felt suited this specific album the best.”
Make-Overs plan to tour in the near future to promote their new album, play at as many places as possible and release their sound on vinyl.
They have also released merchandise from T-shirts to badges and silk-screen art to handmade oddities under the KRNGY logo.
Musical influences and inspiration:
“We both listen to a variety of music and a lot of other groups have taught us the importance of a strong DIY ethic. This has been very inspirational, like Dead Moon pressing their own vinyls or Minute Men’s Jam Econo ideas [keeping ticket costs and merchandise at a low price].
Bongeziwe Mabandla describes his musical style as traditional folk with blends of Mbanqanga (traditional Zulu music), hip-hop and hints of dub.
“I never go to studio thinking genre, it’s more that [I] want to create music that can touch people. But I do want my music to be word-driven, emotional and have a strong African element,” he said.
He describes himself as a village boy, hailing from Tsolo in the Eastern Cape. Mabandla made his way to Johannesburg to further his studies after graduating from the Grey Arts Academy.
Mabandla took up guitar lessons aged 17 but did not pursue music immediately, opting to enrol at the AFDA School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance to study drama instead.
Mabandla occasionally appeared in local soapie Generations but realised acting bored him.
However, while studying at AFDA, Mabandla started playing solo gigs for free around campus, which earned him recognition as a budding musician among students.
Mabandla put out his EP, Umlilo, three years ago, which was well received by his fans.
“I’m not the type of musician who came into music because I thought I was amazing, so it really shocked me the way people reacted to my work.”
He then decided to record a full album.
His songs made it on to several stations, including Radio 2000 and Kaya FM, and one track was used as a soundtrack for SABC1 series Society.
Mabandla is currently working on a new album, which he hopes to release in 2011. It will feature local artists Zuluboy, Kyla from Freshlyground and Nosisi from Kwani Experience. The album is being produced by 340ml drummer Paulo Chibanga.
“After I did my demo, I realised that I had to understand or investigate what kind of musician I was before I did more work, so this new work is clearer, more thought out and more planned.”
Mabandla says his new work was hugely informed by his “inferior complex” and his need to confront it. “A lot of the songs are about growing up poor in this South African landscape and just the day-to-day things that shape me.”
While Mabandla has opted to pursue his musical career, he hasn’t totally discarded acting, saying: “I’m going to be in my first real role on a film called A Million Colours based on the film e’Lollipop
Tracey Chapman, Jabu Khanyile, Simphiwe Dana, Oliva Mtukutsi, Busi Mhlongo, Bongo Maffin and Lauryn Hill.
“I’ve always loved and admired artists like Kwani Experience, Simphiwe Dana, Tumi, Zuluboy etc, and these days I get to work or share the stage with them or hear them say ‘I believe in you’; that has been huge for me. But opening for Freshlyground and Blk Sonshine really changed things for me. Travelling overseas also made me realise the possibilities with music.”
Resident band at The Loft on Seventh Avenue in Melville, The Fridge are a neo-jazz band who refrain from taking a conventional approach to the standard form of jazz, instead fusing African folk, soul, rock and dub.
The band was born in July 2010 when the original Fridge [Mothusi Thusi and Adey Omotade] played with singer Samkelo Mdolomba at The Loft. The Fridge had split from playing with Bongeziwe Mabandla and were looking for a singer, while Mdolomba was looking for new avenues to explore his singing.
The Fridge, who are based in Johannesburg, have played at various venues within the city, such as House of Nsako, where they had their own slot on Wednesday evenings, Bassline, Moshito Music Conference and Darkie Cafe.
The three-piece band has Thusi on bass and electrical guitar and Omotade on drums.
The band launched their first EP on November 20.
View more highlights of the year that was in our special report here: