Culture, Music
Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness

Uhuru Consciousness

by Hagen Engler / 04.06.2012

It’s a media launch for some band called Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness. So we’re here to judge. The well-worn stage of Pata Pata in Maboneng provides the location, a record label called 360 Street the refreshments. The naming conventions already have us skeptical, but we reign in our prejudice as best we can and suck on a meatball as BCUC take the stage.

There’s already something odd about the set-up. The instruments… Just a semi-acoustic guitar, percussion and six mics. Okay, so it’s not conventional. We’re cool with that. The time Ricky Kelly crushed a bottleneck with his own blood, we tried it out. The time that girl from Quay Four wanted to assault us during lovemaking, we were, like, okay cool. Who knew it would be anally?

Unconventional is cool. We’re down with unconventional.

BCUC

But BCUC is unconventional in only a certain way. In another, they are part of a movement in Joburg music that is both futuristic and ancient. Anyone who’s listened to The Fridge with Sam’s forties-folk vocals over dub grooves, or The Soil’s beatbox barbershop or Fifi The Rai Blaster’s trip-hop vernac will know.

BCUC are doing that in a whole other way. This is twasa. It’s a powerful, almost shamanic trance music that carries the audience with it. Groove movements – four or five to a song – that strive to alter consciousness.

It’s not unlike afrobeat, with its endless song forms – BCUC play for 80 minutes and only do four songs. And the singer has a presence that references Femi or Fela, but also Bra Hugh, our own afrobeat pioneer.

Lyrics are conscious vernac with a fair bit of English for the ignorant. We liked “Mr Van der Merwe” with the female vocals going, “Sorrow, tears, pain and blood”, about land and migration.

The back story has them emerging from the township spoken-word scene, which explains the improvised backing – guitar, bass drum, congas, cowbell, maracas, whistle…

Then their video gets spotted on YouTube and they get spirited off to go star at music festivals across Europe before they’ve even made much impact in SA. It’s getting to be a common story.

So tonight’s thing is a homecoming and a debut of sorts and Thabiso Khati of 360 Street sets out to break these guys to their local market after they’ve already cracked overseas.

Tribal trance poetry is fetishised in places like Holland, where it represents the unspoilt primal. We all know that’s bullshit. So breaking in SA will mean building a live following. 20 minute songs will battle to make the MetroFM playlist.

BCUC are making umculo wabant’ abamnyama with an eye on the past, the present and the future in a unique style. It’s got energy and message. It’s a jam band, so they display the familiar jam band absence of clear song starts and finishes. It’s a poetry band, so they’ll always face sound issues. And it’s a trance band, so there’s energy and improv and passion and songs forming live on stage.

And that is the foundation of music. This is music as it ever was.

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RESPONSES (10)
  1. dan says:

    great stuff

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  2. Simba says:

    All the Hagen haters can go choke on their white bread sarmies, this is the shit right here. Y’all wish you were this relevant.

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  3. zithu says:

    wow my ninjas frm the hood its about time people kno about you. May the ancestors b 4 ever with u

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  4. lerato mickey says:

    I realy love dis group, u guys r de best!!!! Wooosh my ninjas nd god bless africa!

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  5. Mbali says:

    I went to one of their gigs and while it was a great intro into what I thought would be a great journey into music and expression, it turned into a rather preachy session about my blackness.

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  6. me, myself and I says:

    BCUC very cool band members and make great music for the people by the people with the people. I chilled with them in a rehearsal session and this is what went down.
    http://vimeo.com/32655870 enjoy

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  7. Lola says:

    I think all white South Africans should watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqYnaFQlxyQ

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  8. Guri says:

    Fantastic put up, very informative. I’m worndeing why the opposite experts of this sector do not notice this. You must continue your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!|What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It positively useful and it has aided me out loads. I’m hoping to contribute & aid other users like its helped me. Good job.

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  9. Nomfundo says:

    Cool band I tell you,you need to be there to see them.Had fun at styleroom in lister building.They were on fire

    Mayine…!!!!

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  10. happybrown says:

    Dope, fresh, needed. BCUC

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