While the music business is still grappling with the evolving situation that has disrupted the traditional models of distribution and promotion, Africa's music stars are offering new releases on streaming platforms and connecting with fans virtually.
The latest such offering is ‘We Made It’, a new album released by popular South African band Mi Casa two weeks ago on the Universal Music imprint. Mi Casa is no stranger to Kenyan audiences, they performed at the Koroga Festival in 2015 and also recorded a collaboration with Sauti Sol on their ‘African Sauce’ album.
The trio that makes dance music underpinned by African harmonies and funky horns have won many admirers around the world with their unique approach to house music.
While this album is a little more diverse with a variety of influences, from 90s R&B to slick urban sounds, the tempo remains lively but a little slower than previous songs from the group.
In an online interview with BDLife, the group's frontman J’Something revealed what this album means to the group, a decade, and five albums since they formed.
“It is like being in a relationship for 10 years, and in those 10 years you have managed to do so many incredible things together, ... this is what we are, a brotherhood, a friendship rooted in our shared belief in the power of music,” the band said.
The band was formed in 2011 when vocalist and guitarist J’Something, trumpeter Mo-T and producer Dr. Duda performed together at a night lounge in Johannesburg. The title ‘We Made It’ was chosen to reflect a sense of pride in how the group has stayed faithful to their passion for music over the years.
“It is a sense of relief that we are still together when all we were told is how bands just end up breaking up,” the band said.
The first single from the album ‘Church Bells’ is a funky beat punctuated with traditional harmonies and a haunting trumpet interlude. It is a love story written by J’Something based on his personal experience during the traditional ceremony known as, lobola (bride price).
Despite the association with house music, Mi Casa is not keen on being categorised and boxed into a genre because this limits their creativity.
“We are so much more than just a sound or a genre, we are musicians, that hear music in our heads and feel it in our souls, and we were given the gift that is to translate what we hearing and feeling into a song,” says J’Something.
He explains that the Mi Casa sound is a mixture of moving drum patterns, infectious bass lines, touching horn arrangements, and soothing vocals. Genre-wise they started off exploring house music as a foundation but now ‘we are just making music, the music we hear. It is a MI CASA sound.’
The group spent a ‘life-changing’ three months uninterrupted writing music for the album.
“We were just so musically in tune and placed absolutely no boxes around ourselves, removed ourselves from what we thought we were about, and just allowed the music to flow.”
‘Eve’ is a song that lyrically was written to drive a message that we need to be talking about the crazy things going on in the world.
"We need to highlight the truth about history, we need to use music and poetry to spread the message and bring some awareness to these crazy times we find ourselves in," says J Something.
Just like musicians from all across the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on Mi Casa with no shows, no income and they found themselves under a lot of pressure to somehow find ways to monetise the arts, to ensure it 'does not become perceived as a non-essential service.'
"My message to the musicians is please understand how valuable you are and how needed you are right now. You have been given a gift that goes beyond fame and relevancy, you have a gift that can fill people with joy," says J'Something.
He recommends the song "Chucks" because it is a song inspired by hope to be present and realize 'all we have is now nothing else. We are going to get through this. Don't give up.'
More than anything their expectation is that album makes people 'dance, cry a tear of joy or sadness, that it lifts you if you need lifting, and that it fills your heart with joy. The rest will come.'