By James Hammerton
Published Friday, 19 February 2016 15:38
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.
BCUC has had great success abroad. Can you tell us how it is different from 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 around the country and abroad?
We do have our favourite venues, but more than venues we have our favourite 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 the 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 any 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.