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Culture, Music

City Shell to Citadel

by Andy Davis / 21.03.2012

Over the years Tumi Molekane has grown in stature from an underground spoken word poet with struggle roots to one of South Africa’s most credible emcees. These days he’s signed to French record label, Sakifo, tours the world playing gigs and festivals with his band The Volume and his latest offering Pick A Dream showcased a radically different, more melodic and focussed side to the musician. Later this month, he’ll be headlining the South African chapter of The Flyover Show (which he helped organise), in Soweto, along with Jonzi D, Feya Faku, Bokani Dyer and Mr Soweto Kinch himself. We caught up with the only Mzansi emcee to rhyme with an authentic American accent, and talked about the gig.

Tell us about the Flyover Show. This gig was started in Birmingham by Soweto Kinch, to try and bring music and art to neglected urban spaces. How did you get involved?

I Performed at the Flyover Show in 2009, in Birmingham, back when Aston Villa was still a football team. Always heard of it from Kinch and it was my pleasure to go out and support this action.

What’s so special about this gig?

It’s focus is community development, in a way that many South Africans understand it. Transforming a defunct, corroding space into a greenhouse of the urban arts, from city shell to citadel, if you may.

The Flyover Show is happening in Kliptown, Soweto at the end of the month. Kliptown occupies an important place in the history of SA’s struggle against apartheid. Was that why you chose that as the venue for the gig?

Kliptown is an amazing place, a memorial even before they built the post apartheid relics. In many ways it is the birthplace of our current social system. The Charter, the hunger, the community involvement. I was made aware of the good people at the Kliptown Youth Program who have provided an after school program, a feeding scheme and creche. I promised I would bring some music to them. And while we’re at it, I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate them. This year they produced their first university graduates.

What’s your relationship with Soweto Kinch like? I remember you being very excited about his performance at the CT Jazz Fest when he first played in SA.

Yes, that’s where I met him, Phiona Okumu introduced us, I went to go watch his set and midway through an au fait jazz set the dude drops his trumpet, picks up the mic and the improv becomes the freestyle. Powerful shit. We been cool since.

Looks like you played a part in bringing Feya Faku and Bokani Dyer to the gig as well… These guys have huge cred in the music industry but quite low profiles. What’s the situation there? How did they get on the bill?

Nah that was all Kinch.

What can we expect from your set?

I will be playing with Kinch’s band, so they will decide what and how I sound. I really dont know the answer to that question yet, but I’m excited.

Who else should we look out for?

Eska Mtungwazi is a singer I have been in love with for over 7 years now, she has featured on all of Kinch’s albums and was the lead vocalist in Matthew Herbert’s Big Band. She is really one of the best singers I have ever heard in my life.

Are you going to be dragging Kinch or Jonzi D into the studio for a little impromptu recording session?

Anything could happen, what? What? Say what! Say what! Anything could happen!

Anything else, we forgot to touch on…

Yeah, Shout out to my the homeys Perfecto, Reason, Zaki, Instro, Nonku, Motif… Don’t Sleep.

*Opening image © Christoph Lenz.

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