Southern Africa’s Retro-afro alternative music band , Urban Village, released their debut single, Sakhisizwe.
Their Fans already know, those who troll the streets searching for griots with music instruments in bands, know the score, the international community should also be aware, through French Based Record label No Format. South African, Soweto Started Band, Urban Village has released its aptly titled single called Sakhisizwe. This contemporary Retro-afro sound has been fine tuned and released to the world and its beautiful to witness.
It’s been a good couple of years, touring, performing for this collective of musicians, which started out as a concept that grew around the then underground weekly Sawubona Music Jam sessions. The current band line-up is
-Lerato Lichaba on Guitars.
-Tubatsi Moloi on Flute, wind instruments and Vocals.
– Xolani Kush Mtshali on Drums and Vocals.
– Smanga Dlamini on bass,
The song’s title, loosely translated, is “we are building a nation”. In the songs lyrics, written Mostly in english and isiZulu, one hears the call to acknowledge the importance of intergenerational interactions without hostility, pride and shame, but a joyful rejoicing and Unity. Its a song also about collective responsibility.
The new album is set for release in this 2020, where we await plenty… This Single is a compressed, well articulated arrangement, clocking at 2:46, that doesn’t deviate far from the Urban Village live sound experience, except, this song is short, in what feels like an effort by the record label to secure radio airplay… Commendable, but damn the song could’ve been a bit longer! There are a few surprises that add a classic “world music feel” such as the high pitched, triangle sounding percussion mostly on the chorus. Siyabangena eBrazil with that latin.
The song opens with a capella male voices in the tradition of Southern Africa’s Mbube and Isicathamiya vocal arrangments… The vocals are Beautifully mixed, with the right amount of pitch correction to complement the mordenity of the sound.
The effect that studio recording has on some artist’s performance can be felt on this recording… not that this is a bad thing, but it is a change that can be noted. It results in a tonal harness by Lead singer Moloi, who offer a beautiful honest vocal performance, but feels restrained, and gives only what is necessary, alone, wandering mostly reverbless, without even a slight delay to embellish the end of the phrases. It is good, the Bass and Drum are Solid on the Mbaqanga beat behind the lead Vocals, but Mixing choices let the verse parts of the Song down. This creating an emptiness, resulting in a longing for the “stage energy”, his vocal effects pedal, his theatrics, a longing for the sounds of Soweto people, hustling bustling, taxis passing by noisily, humans being human, music playing, people cheering, and on top of all that, the carefree gravel like vocals that will scratch to satisfaction an itch on your lost soul MoAfrika… Somewhere in the city, at a festival far or even there at Sawubona in front of Senzos colourful eyes. Carefree, coal-boy whistles and guttaral grunts and groans, But I’m asking for too much… Because I’m missing so much. I think im asking for sound design, the creating of aural landscapes in the music as Tubatsi usually does live and maybe I see it because im a fan as well as a musician now trying to be a critic. Maybe ’cause I know too much. These vocals are safe, almost dry, careful, and it isnt a fault, this is the engineers doing, and of course collective band decisions I’m assuming.
Lerato Lichaba’s guitar plays the role of the anchor that serves to remind that we are indeed in Southern Africa. Lightning fast tell tale pentatonic licks, masked in a chorus as is the tradition of maskandi tradition of AbeZulu and BaTsonga guitar based music are the order of the day. This is testament of his on going work as archivist and Soweto Music scene expert through his project, Radio Bantu Native… And in a increasingly globalizing world, nuanced traces of tradition that survive the flood that is modernity should be treasured.
All in all a great introduction of the Urban Village Sound to the world, beautiful vocal and musical performance that could’ve been enhanced, I feel with a little bit more time In post production. This because the recording does tend to have a pre-production, almost under produced… “perhaps too authentic” aesthetic to it even as a professional Debut single from a French Label, and that totally went against my expectations, which I will admit are flawed. And perhaps this is the blessing, a lesson that this for now is enough, and the joke is on me while the brothers are building a worldwide nation for OUR Urban Village.
Waiting to hear more in the coming year…
The single is available for a listen on YouTube and download via, download, streaming Platforms.