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Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (BCUC)

bcuc group photo image source fb

Photo Source: Facebook | Photo credit unknown

Please, could you tell us more about your name and how it came about? Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (BCUC).

The name came about when we got our first booking. We were just a number of guys who were poets, musicians and rappers who used to do jam sessions at our local park. From our lyrics Bantu would constantly pop up, Aluta Continua would also just pop up, ‘not yet uhuru’ would be thrown in the mix. While as a collective we were just conscious brothers.

Listen While You Read!

BCUC has had great success abroad. Can you tell us how it is different to performing in South Africa? Are artists treated differently and could you make a living performing overseas without having a day job?

The difference between performing abroad and home is not that great. The only exception is that the audience is exposed to an even wider array of African music. What doesn’t change is that we are South Africans. Our message is the same, we are a band dealing with social issues and those issues are the same throughout the world. Yes they treat us differently, because to them we are this exotic, black, energetic band that reminds them of many South African artists that they know, but we deliver like Rock and Roll musicians. So we are treated differently but we cannot speak for other artists. We can’t say you can make a living performing only overseas, but we always make it work.

BCUC is playing a large role in the healing of the nation, although your lyrics are not always political, what in your opinion is the role of the musician in the modern world and in South Africa in particular?

We will speak for ourselves. Our role in the musical soundscape and the country’s general narrative, concerning what is happening now. We can’t take a political stance, nor a religious stance because what the country needs now is a unifying voice. In our journey of that unity, the language should be respectful, accommodating and understanding whilst we do not run away from our problems as a country. What other musicians have been doing, especially after and meeting us are that they have started contributing towards that same unifying pot.

What are some of your favourite venues to perform at around the country and abroad?

We do have our favorite venues, but more than venues we have our favorite engineers. Without them, half of this (music) would not have translated the way it has been received. That’s our story and we are sticking to it.

You have received much support from the underground scene in South Africa fans of Psych, Punk, Metal and many other sub genre’s all seem to attend your shows and enjoy your music? Has much of this success filtered through to the mainstream? Can we expect to hear your music on national radio stations, is this one of your goals?

It has been a humbling and encouraging time for us. Some of the most amazing people in and outside of the music industry have been giving us love and we appreciate it. About the potential of radio invasion, that can only happen if we feature on other people’s music. Our format will not change; our songs are too long for radio and TV. On a positive note, we are going to release a two to three tracks vinyl LP. Obviously, it will also be available digitally. Lastly, on radio, you can hear us on The Wrong Rock Show regularly.

Your live performances are high energy and extremely captivating, so much so that one wonders if it is not choreographed/rehearsed accordingly. Do any of you have a background in theatre or does the performance come naturally with the intensity of the music? I say this because your command of the stage is truly exceptional, does it just come with experience?

We have a background in theatre and dance. We used to collaborate and tour with international theatre companies. Also, we are from Soweto and in Soweto generally people are crazy and animated. So we do not draw our inspiration from anywhere, in particular, we are just us, doing our thing like we always do, every day all day. With that amount of drums and the drive that comes from our relentless bass lines one cannot help but get carried away.

Your sound is unique to the live performance circuit, could you tell us more about who influences you musically and where you draw inspiration for your sound?

We draw from the blues, funk and psychedelia. So for us the question is not who but what era of music influences us. For example; with the blues and soul and funk people will remember James Brown, BB King and The Parliament yet we further draw from Howling Wolf, Curtis Mayfield and Earth, Wind and Fire. As we say it is not about who but the era. We also largely draw our inspiration from Isicathamiya, Umaskandi, Sangoma music, hood acapella, around the fire night music (umculo wamathezi) and Sophiatown shebeen music.

BCUC is more of a movement than just a band, I know that you are involved in social upliftment projects within your communities, could you elaborate on this and tell the people out there how they can get involved?

We were a movement in the beginning, but the shortfall of a movement is that it has leadership. So we have abandoned the movement and now we are part of the CRUSADE. The crusade works for us in that it doesn’t have leaders but it follows and gravitates towards the general consensus. That is why we have a lot of bands that are part of the crusade. The mission is we (and other bands) will make this country work.

Could you tell us more about the diverse range of instruments you use on stage and are there challenges working with sound engineers to setting up and capturing your sound correctly?

In the beginning, it was hard because a lot of engineers were not familiar with micing a set-up like ours. But because of bands like The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons and Coldplay, it became an industry standard to know how to mic a band like ours. So we give props and respect to the people that did it in the mainstream for bands like us to have a healthy habitat. What can people expect from you at Splashy Fen this year, any surprises that you could hint at? We never know what we are going to produce on stage. The only thing we know is that it’s gonna be an amazing experience for all of us. Music for the people, by the people with the people.


Drawing the Shortstraw

Shortstraw YOUTHLESS by Hanro Havenga 03

Shortstraw are definitely one of my favourite SA bands, my mate Tash is obsessed with them and I can’t say she has bad taste. The band has made huge, success out of themselves and rightfully so with their unique sound and quirky lyrics, really, what’s not to like? They are often playing gigs down here in the dirty South and have been added to this year’s Splashy Fen - Revival list. We had a chat with them about their last international tour and why they like playing at Splashy.

You guys recently did a tour in Japan, what was it like playing with Japanese bands?
 
It's a little intimidating, to be honest! They are all such incredible musicians - like serious masters of their craft - so they made us feel a little inferior a lot of the time, although once we got to know them - and I mean all of them, every single band we shared the stage with (and even some we didn't) - they made us feel so equal and at home on stage. It's such an incredible country with the most amazing people. So friendly and accommodating and, even with the language barrier in place, everyone we spent time with immediately became a friend. 
 
What are their festivals like?
 
I'm not sure if all Japanese festivals are like the one we played at, but the one we saw wasn't like Splashy where there's a bunch of massive stages a few hours out of town, this was all over a part of Osaka, in various clubs around an area that's called America, which is basically the musical hub of Osaka. Every venue has state of the art sound and lighting equipment, despite the fact that the majority of these clubs can't handle more than 100 people. But every show we went to, was packed and fortunately for us, the one we played was packed too. Didn't see any drum circles and there was no Fen, so still think we do festivals better. 
 
When are you going to do episode two of the 'Booshcast' on Soundcloud?
 
That's a damn good question! We really wanted to do one in December before we went on tour, but we were all chaotic trying to finish up work and I was sick and trying to recover before it started. I think we should do one bloody tomorrow! Look out for that. 
 
How many Splashy’s have you played at?
 
2016 will be our 4th year in a row! I've been going since I was a kid. Though, so it'll be about my 15th actual Splashy though. 
 
What’s your favourite thing about a Splashy Fen gig?
 
Definitely the crowd. Durban crowds are the best! Everyone is a little rowdy, without being aggressive, so there's loads of party and good times. 
 
If you were a Super Hero, what powers would you have?
 
I think it'd be cool to have the ability to control other people's sphincters. Like bad guy's sphincters only, though we wouldn't take advantage. 

Shortstraw YOUTHLESS by Hanro Havenga 01


Photo by Hanro Havenga


HEZRON CHETTY - Origins reconsidered: Chasing answers and finding questions in India

Recently Hezron Chetty and Girlfriend Julienne Fenwick Jumped on a plane and headed across India on a totally random, yet spontaneous holiday trip. This is the result of their holiday trip across India, where Hezron randomly wrote to several bands various genres to interview. Hezron then arranged to meet India's biggest Punk Rock band at present. 'TRIPWIRE'.

tripwire

"Travelling the equivalent of a road trip from South Africa to Algeria, 6587km across India will redefine any preconceived ideas you might have had about pretty much anything… People, rich and poor (mostly poor), the extreme passion roused by music in the most unlikely places, and my definition of a holiday!

My girlfriend, Julienne, and I decided somewhat spontaneously to take a holiday to India, seeing as I am from South Indian descent (Chenai region), and have always wanted to go back to my origins; and as a musician I am always looking for inspiration in new places. Great, why not add in a mission for good measure: to interview a few local musos and find out what is happening on the scene and behind the scenes in the Indian music world.

 tripwire posing for a shot at our Hotel in Mumbai

On the way to the airport, I emailed numerous bands from various genres, and arranged to meet up with the few who replied. ‘Tripwire’, India’s biggest Punk Rock band at present, is a group from Mumbai. These guys reminded me of when I was with ‘Fruits and Veggies’ (South African Punk Rock band). The stories of debauchery on tour, near arrests and legendary raucous gigs brought on a wave of nostalgia. We met with the three band members in our hotel bar, where they were visibly uncomfortable. For the sake of authenticity, we opted to get into their car for a trip through Mumbai in the monsoon…grabbed some street food, imbibed copious amounts of neat whiskey and turned down crystal meth. In this more natural environment, Amey (vocals/guitar), Shaggy (bass/vocals) and Jack (drums/electronics) proceeded to prove to us that there is a lot more to India that just Bollywood."

How did you guys come to be Tripwire?

Jack: I am a self-taught drummer, and Amey is self taught on guitar. In 2002 we decided to perform together at the Livewire battle of the bands. We jammed together just before then, got on stage and blew people away.

What was the Punk scene in India like before you started Tripwire?

Amey: When MTV was introduced to India it showed us what other music was going on in the world. We were introduced to bands like Nirvana, which was probably the most popular western band in India at that time. We decided to start a band and to create our own scene. Venue owners had no idea about punk music and we received a lot of abuse from managers of bars because they could not understand why our crowds were jumping on tables and creating chaos.

What has changed over the years?

Amey: Now we have been in this industry for over 13 years and we have gained respect and have helped to grow the Indian Punk scene. We are seen as the founding band in the punk scene, so we have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. We now run our own events where we introduce new punk bands to a new audience. We have a duty to give back to the music scene.

Do you guys make a good living from music?

F**k no man! We are punk rockers in India (The whole band laughs)! We do make some money now from gigs, as with time we have learned to choose our gigs better. When we started out the pay was shit, and we struggled. We fund our music careers now by our day jobs. Jack is a game tester, Amey and Shaggy are bankers. We realized that if we could not make a living from music we were going to find jobs and then pursue our dreams in music.

Who manages you, and are you signed to a label as yet?

Shaggy: We do not have a manager because so many people have tried to “manage” us and they just can’t!

Amey: Everyone wants to be the manager of a band, but few people understand how much work is involved. A large number of them also misunderstood our genre completely. It was after this that we decided to take affairs into our own hands and educate the people on how to run events for different genres other than traditional or Bollywood.

We now manage ourselves and we have set up our own record label CT Records. We also often swap CD’s with other bands and sell their CD’s at our merchandise stalls and they do the same for us.

How would you describe the effect that Bollywood music had on the music scene in India?

Amey: Bollywood has had a major impact; it makes it much harder for other musicians that perform different styles of music to get gigs and to introduce their style to a new audience. The majority of Indians support Bollywood because it is easily accessible. Imagine If Punk, Rock or even metal were just as accessible? The market will be open to so much more. Bollywood is generic much the same as Hollywood. Our goal has never been about selling music but rather selling a message.

Tell me more about the writing process of your music and how the band come together on decisions for what must stay and what must go?

Jack : We all come up with melodies and rhythms. We also all work on the lyrics together. If one of us does not agree with the song then we work on a new song. We are a family and we all need to agree with the music that we are making.

We never discuss religion in our music, India is full of religion and we don’t need to go on talking about religion to the people. We want to challenge them and to leave our audience asking questions about life, emotions and the universe.

You recently got back from a tour around Asia. What were some of the highlights?

Amey: We played to some amazing audiences in Malaysia. When we played our first song the crowd went mental! Guys created a pit in front of us and started shouting for more. You could see the passion in the audience’s eyes. They did not want us to leave the stage!

We then decided to take some acid before our return flight and we all started to believe that the taxi driver was a fake and that he was taking us somewhere to mug us! In the end we calmed downed and realized we were just tripping.

Find Tripwire on Facebook
Media: The 10 Famous Rock Bands of India

"Being a musician doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be one by profession. I also had some chance encounters and impromptu jam sessions that sprung from the question of what I do for a living. When people hear that I’m a violinist, they always ask me to play something - to which I always reply: only if you join me!

Hezron learning a new style of music from Manoj called Pahari

From behind the desk at his family-owned fuel station, India Oil, Manoj, seems reserved but very inquisitive as to the strangers in front of him. His cousin is our taxi driver and ‘tour guide’ across India, and he insisted on presenting us to his family for a cup of chai (and likely to show off his “VIP clients” as he called us) before continuing our journey. We were invited into his home, which is just above his office next to the fuel station. A very different way of life, I particularly enjoyed that the main bedroom also doubled up as an entertainment area, fitted with a round bed and 70’s style disco interior. He proudly whipped out his guitar (which had one string missing), and started playing some traditional Indian tunes to which I attempted to improvise

Having played only Western folk music in the past, it was very satisfying to finally play something from the country I was from. . I picked up several unique melodies from this ancient style, which have incorporated into my new work of late.

Every country has its gypsies, and I have always related to this faction of people in some way, travelling around the world with only my instrument to earn a living. I met Lucky Bhatt on a roof-top in Jaipur, where he was performs a puppet show every Friday evening. He is part of a ‘small’ puppeteer colony (6000 people!), settled outside of Jaipur. They function as a family business, some performing shows all over the country, others making and selling trinkets to bring in cash.

Lucky voiced his dismay at his fellow puppeteer and musician mate who bailed on him last minute, and now he had to settle for playing Shakira (the Indian version) from his phone while doing the show. “Typical gypsies man!” I went to fetch my violin from the hotel room and he nearly kissed me! He whipped out his Mridangam (a traditional Indian drum), and we created some beautiful tunes that made me feel like I could have been part of his clan that night…also likely a combination of King Fisher beer (5-8% alcohol) , and the gypsy-jut we were smoking.

Hezron Jamming with Gypsy Musician and Puppeteer Lucky Bhatt

After returning home to the relative safety and serenity that is South Africa, I have learned to appreciate the freedom that we take for granted: traffic rules, dogs on leashes and food generally free from diarrheal disease. But mostly, the amazing music selection that we have readily available around every corner in this country should not be taken for granted! We need to open our eyes to what is happening around the world, in order to fully appreciate how lucky we are in SA. India still has a long way to go until alternative bands become household names, but they are fighting the norms and courageously breaking the moulds (and tables/chairs) that society has prescribed - to show people that music can set you free to express who you want to be. I always wanted to return to the country of my origin, to discover my Indian heritage, but the one thing that became very clear is that I am not Indian… I am proudly South African!"

Take a look at some photo shots of Hezron's and Julienne's Holiday.

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By Hezron Chetty & Julienne Fenwick


Talking to “Thomas Krane”

tk1 alistair christie

Photo Credit: Alistair Christie

When was the last time you heard something that made you pause and listen? Something unique, insightful and fresh. And when was the last time this moment of introspection was sparked by a local artist?

“Thomas Krane” is just this type of artist, or rather, experience. Hauntingly beautiful and saturated with profound expression, listening to Bone Tower is a lot like having a conversation with a friend who serves as teacher, parent and poet.

We chatted to the mastermind behind this special piece of work.

Listen while you read!

How many one-man band jokes have you heard?

Um… none. Are there some funny ones? You could tell me my first if you want…

You collaborated with some serious talent for the album, how was that?

It was awesome! And really easy for the most part – they are all at the top of their games. I didn’t really direct any of their input and most of it was done remotely. I mailed a track to them, told them where the space was, and they sent a track back with their additions. It was actually really fun getting the tracks back with no clue what it would sound like – discovering my own song like new each time.

The album is centred around a narrative of unrequited love. What inspired this direction?

I write to a character I have been developing for some time. In case it wasn’t clear, Thomas Krane is not a real person. My name is Dan. The album follows the story of a relationship central to Thomas’ life – it does start out as an unrequited infatuation, but develops into real love and then disaster through the album.

Multi-instrumentalism is a lost art. What prompted your love of sound?

I’m just the sum of my influences and many hours of trial and error.

You’ve had experience and success crowdfunding your art. Any tips for others looking to do the same?

Spam your friends! Literally 90% of the people who funded the album, I know by name.

The music scene in Durban is often overlooked. Why do you think this is?

Right now I think that’s partly because of a lack of venues to play – it’s hard to grow when there’s nowhere to play. I think another thing is that everyone who gets to a certain level moves away (I’m a case in point here). I have got seriously fond memories of the time I spent playing there though.

It’s evident that your music is thick with emotion. Do you feel vulnerable opening up?

I use Thomas Krane as a convenient screen for emotional content. It ain’t me emoting – it’s him – so no, it’s pretty comfortable.

What’s your favourite song of all time?

It’s hard to pick just one, but I do a cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene on the album – I think it’s one of the better songs I’ve ever written.

family portrait allister christie

Photo Credit: Alistair Christie

For those fortunate enough to be in the Mother City this month, make sure you get to the Bone Tower Album Launch:

Date: 18 September 2015
Time: 21:00
Venue: New Space Theatre, 22Seven Headquarters, 60 Hout Street.
Pledge/Purchase tickets: citysoiree.co.za
Event link: tinyurl.com/otykhg6
Be sure to visit thomaskrane.com to find out more.


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