Daddy’s Got The Bluesby Zoë Henry / 13.04.2010
It’s a sweltering Cape Town day. We try to relax on the balcony of a Century City apartment block, but the glasses of water that are supposed to be cooling us down have reached the temperature of a tepid bath, hair is sticking to foreheads and necks, and a baby cries with intense discomfort lacing his sobs. “That’s my son”, says Federico Fernandez, lead guitarist vocalist, and founder of Son of a 1000 Blues. He takes another cigarette out of a nearly empty box and lights it. Despite the wailing permeating our interview, there’s a look of pride on his face as he says those words.
Argentinean born Fernandez may be a rock star to those that sing along to his songs at music venues all over the country, and if you don’t get out much, he may just be that pirate from the Scooters advert, but here, at home with his wife and kids, he’s a family man. He rocks the crying baby to sleep and gives his eldest daughter her Disney Princess themed yoghurt cup. It’s the combination of all these things that make him a great musician.
“Only a musician. I couldn’t be anything else”, states Fernandez when asked what he would be if he wasn’t in the music biz. Federico, along with fellow band members Nicolas Rochecouste (a fellow founding member) on drums, Nhlanhla Mwelase on lead vocals, and Mzandile Kunene on bass, have managed to create one of the most original sounds on the South African indie music scene today. Borrowing the styles of a variety of musical mavericks, from the more obvious bluesy influences such as Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and Robi Draco Rosa, to the more obscure and soulful, like Stevie Wonder, Sade, Marvin Gaye, and the Buena Vista Social Club.
Son of a Thousand Blues has gone through a number of metamorphoses since its inception in 2004. Band members have come and gone – some because of musical differences, and others because of personal situations. Their sound has been mastered, modified, and matured into a groundbreaking amalgamation. According to Fernandez, the current line-up has “the perfect chemistry”, something that’s vitally important when sharing creative visions with the intention of constructing a sound that represents the whole band, while remaining listenable to the general public.
Son of a Thousand Blues have always expressed themselves bilingually in English and Spanish. Since moving up to Johannesburg a couple of years back, they’ve added some Zulu lyrics to their repertoire, giving it that genuine Mzansi feel. Perhaps it is the Africanisation of their sound that has finally given them the much sought after recording deal with Universal Music. In August 2009 they released their debut album in conjunction with the label. The self-titled 15-track long album is an accurate exhibition of the band’s diversity. They float effortlessly through the soundscapes of soul and blues-inspired rock. Funk, dub, R&B, pop, trip-hop, and reggae all have cameos in their rich and varied sound, and overriding it all is the Latin American and mbaqanga fusion of the band’s cosmopolitan heritage.
Despite our country being labelled ‘The Rainbow Nation’, ‘A melting pot of cultures’, and many other equally twee terms, different cultures coming together on equal footing to work together is still not commonplace. One need only go to Rocking the Daisies, Rage for the Revolution, or Galaxy for proof that people generally still stick to their own. This is what sets Son of a 1000 Blues apart. They may be a token multiracial musical enterprise on the South African music scene, but they’re a token with face-melting guitar riffs, which makes them worthy of our attention – like Freshlyground with an edge.