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Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

It’s hard to imagine a band getting more exposure than by playing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup.  With the eyes of the world on South Africa last Thursday, the nation’s own BLK JKS delivered what was arguably the best performance of the night.

At the heart of their music is a tenacious fidelity to afrobeat, a mélange of traditional African styles with progressive Western ones like funk and jazz.  However, the BLK JKS have upped the ante, casting the elements of afrobeat in the unlikely mold of alternative rock, while referencing such disparate genres as dub, prog, and psychedelia.  Incredibly, the combinations, transitions, and contrasts never sound forced with these guys – that’s because all four BLK JKS are also really smart composers.  Their new album Zol! showcases this talent, particularly on “Paradise,” in which the band moves from dystopian guitar riffs to sun-soaked Afro-Cuban interludes in the blink of an eye.

BLK JKS wrote the title track from Zol! as an unofficial World Cup anthem.  It’s a joyous song, and easily the most “traditional” track on the album.  So it was surprising when they chose to play the more aggressive, politically-charged “Mzabalazo” at the opening ceremony instead. But I’m not complaining: it’s my favorite song on the new album.  It’s also a more fitting one to share with the world, as it shows just how BLK JKS mix the heaviness of Western rock with the musical vocabulary of Africa.

Studio 360 host Kurt Andersen talked with BLK JKS before a performance in Los Angeles last year.  They broke down all the different strands of music that show up in a single song, from art rock to Zulu chants.

– Stephen Reader

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City of angels

When I visited Johannesberg a few years ago, I was startled by how much, townships aside, it reminded me of southern California — the topography, the sunniness, the freeways, the shiny Americanism in general. So the other day when I interviewed the delightful founders of the cool South African rock band BLK JKS, Mpumi Mcata and Lindani Buthelezi, before their gig at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, I asked, a little nervously, if they agreed. Yes! They also thought it was cool (and, um, ironic) that they were about to perform next to ethnographic dioramas depicting indigenous Africa. The interview — and exclusive acoustic performance! — airs (and becomes podcastable here) starting Friday.

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After the interview, I headed west to Santa Monica, where I snapped this picture of the heavenly sunset from my car, and then had dinner with four uncannily beautiful and accomplished women (Kerry Washington, Cecelia Peck, Tricia Brock, Anne Kreamer) and three guys.

Thursday I’m off to Santa Barbara, where I’m having lunch with my pal Pico Iyer, who is more like an angel than anyone I’ve ever met.

I love L.A.

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