SA funk comes to Kenya

BCUC band
The seven-piece band from the township of Soweto, Johannesburg, is the headline act for the annual event at Alliance Francaise, Nairobi. PHOTO | COURTESY 

An eclectic combination of traditional warrior chants, whistling and percussions with funk and rock creates the “indigenous funky soul” of South African band BCUC.

There can’t be a better choice of truly global rhythms to celebrate World Music Day, which is marked in more than 120 countries, next Thursday 21 June.

The seven-piece band from the township of Soweto, Johannesburg, is the headline act for the annual event at Alliance Francaise, Nairobi.

“It is our first time coming to East Africa and we can’t wait to experience the vibe in Kenya,” says singer Kgomotso Mokone. BCUC is an abbreviation for Bantu (the people) Continua (continuing) Uhuru Consciousness (freedom of awareness).

“Our name is the point of reference to our state of mind,” explains Kgomotso. “We believe that music can change people when used as medicine or weapon for healing.”

The group’s energy, dynamic blend of diverse genres and high-energy stage shows have made it a major international music revelation. Gilles Peterson of BBC Radio 6, one of the world’s most influential DJs, was so impressed by BCUC that he described the group as ‘the best act I saw live in 2017’

Their story started in 2003 when a group of friends started drawing crowds at their jam session at a local park. A promoter wanted to book the band for a gig but they didn’t have a name and that’s when BCUC was born.

They have branded their music “Africa Ngungungu” to illustrate a style that is rooted in traditional roots while still very progressive and defying popular categorization.

“We draw inspiration from indigenous music that is not exposed in the mainstream,” says vocalist Kgomotso, who is the only female member of the band. It is her sweet soulful vocals that lend a smooth edge to the raw combative voice of Jovi Nkosi and the rap of Luja Ngoepe.

“Expect a lot of soul and funk with a touch of rock & roll, all wrapped up in rich South African drums and melodies,” says Kgomotso about their repertoire for the Nairobi concert. “Our music is filled with hope, and we offer solutions amidst the seemingly dark tunnel of life for Africans in the 21st Century,” she adds.

BCUC’s debut album “Our Truth” was released in 2016 and their latest album “Emakhosini” (A place of Kings and Queens), recorded in France in 2017, has received rave reviews worldwide since its release.

The UK paper The Guardian said BCUC allows their songs ‘to develop, fade away, change direction and then build up to an often ferocious climax’. The Financial Times wrote: “The group offers a deconstructed punk twist on old township music using drums and whistles,”

In a break from convention, the album contains just three songs with incantations that extend to 20 minutes each, in a style reminiscent of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat.
They have earned performance slots at major events including Roskilde Festival in Denmark, where they return next month for the second consecutive appearance.

BCUC tackle the realities of the marginalized, especially the poor uneducated workers at the bottom of South African society. The sound is constantly evolving from one style to another but all throughout the rhythm is fierce, confident and empowering.

In one of their stand out tracks the band starts with the old spiritual “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” which morphs into chanting, rap and thundering drums.
The World Music Day concert showcases both emerging talent and established artists.

Kenyan singer Binti who is known as the “Swahili Dub Queen” and CBK Music from Kisumu who play modern day Benga influenced pop music are the supporting acts for the show.