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The Fridge - Opening Image

Bigger Than We Look

by Ts’eliso Monaheng / 29.05.2012

In person, Samkelo Mdolomba comes off as the kind of guy who grew up pulling pranks and telling other kids on the playground that their football skills are terrible. On stage, with eyes half-closed or the cornea rolled back so far in his eye-sockets that all one can see are the whites of his eyeballs, he comes off as a tad shy. Yet he is convincing, so much so that at all of the performances I’ve witnessed, the crowd have revelled in every note that he sang.

“I am working on it”, says Sam, looking rather relaxed in jeans and a checked shirt, with a black pair of Chuck Taylors to match. It is a far cry from the image cut by The Soil, the group which he left in order to pursue a solo career. “It was based on business really, and what I wanted for myself.” He says when pressed on why he left the acapella ensemble.

If Sam is the playful one, then drummer Ade Omotade is the de facto leader-cum-philosopher of the trio. He’s also the most talkative, according to his bandmates. Ade is judicious, and has such conviction in every statement that he utters that it often leaves you feeling either very confused, or very impressed by his character.It can also come across as stand-offish, to the uninitiated. But blame it on his talent, as he puts it: “I play a lot of drums in my head, and when it’s time to play, I translate that into music.”

Mothusi Thusi is the goofy part of the bunch, the weeded-out (with no allusion to his medicinal habits) man-child who cracks jokes at a whiff and occasionally interjects at performances to drop one-liners that shake up your mind and infect the senses.

The three of them make up The Fridge, a Joburg-based trio that met at a battle of the bands event some years ago, decided that they liked each other’s taste in music enough to start a band, and have been going strong ever since. Alongside The Brother Moves On, The Frown, The Muffinz, and a slew of others, they are shaping – consciously or otherwise – the urban sonic landscape of South African music as we know and consume it. And they seem to be winning; with every mini-tour, every performance, and every mention by influential people in social circles, they advance a step closer towards country-wide recognition.

Ade tends to drift in conversation. His attempts at answering a question involve him going off at a tangent, coming back momentarily, and then veering off again in a diametrically opposite direction. For instance, when asked about his contribution to the band, part of his answer includes the statement: “freedom is being able to do whatever you want, but that’s not freedom for me. Freedom is being able to do what you want, but you’re not doing it, meaning that you don’t go out of your boundaries.” He is a walking, talking series of quotable quotes and off-kilter moments. A scholar of the best West African music (hailing originally from Nigeria). Names such as King Sunny Ade and Tony Allen fall off his lips as easily as the comparisons to 50s-era South African jazz musicians that run through the mind when Sam sings.

The Fridge - Joburg-based Trio

Sam is quick to acknowledge the confluence of sounds that contribute to his ultimate ‘sound’, adding that, “we’re all children of a global type of world, a world where a lot of cultures are exposed, and all fused into this one ball of hood versus suburb versus foreign influences… and it’s all jumbled up.”

The very configuration of the band (Ade on drums, Sam on vocals, and Mothusi interchanging guitar and bass at different junctures) brings to mind the spatial configuration of music, the tell-tale of creator-audience interaction in order to reach an unwritten agreement on how to interpret the final product. Their formation is brittle, as they themselves attest. Thusi also points out that this set-up allows for “a lot more room for each of us to play,” and then goes into the specifics. “With the bass I can play chords, I can play four or five notes at the same time. Sam does multiple voices, Ade plays like it’s two drummers playing sometimes. I guess that’s why our songs sound bigger than we look.”

The Fridge are intent on navigating South African settings in search of spaces that will allow them to do what they want, and to present it in a configuration that best fits their music. “It’s never gonna happen”, says Adey regarding the likelihood of getting booked to perform in various locales in South Africa before suggesting “probably when we are on radio.” Adey observes that the culture of touring is lacking, at least as far as Southern Africanbands are concerned, and Sam adds that “we can’t wait for a TV appearance first, a video, or a track on radio before Cape Town or any other place that we’re trying to get to, to know us.”

Mothusi speaks of the ‘identity’ of their music as opposed to ‘genre’, saying that the band found it necessary to identify the music themselves in order to, perhaps, understand what it is – hence the term ‘urbanscape’. He speaks of an organic, non-premeditated sound that defies limits.

But in the quest to defy classification, to break free from the shackles of ‘box-dom’, artists often find themselves languishing in the abyss of ‘exclusivity’, failing repeatedly to receive acclaim beyond their immediate circles. Ade speaks of a ‘sophistication’ to their sound, and one momentarily worries that this may land them in the annals of obscurity quicker than it can gain them the acclaim they need to survive and thrive.

But their handy chops, riffs, and vocal inflections, not to mention their streetwise attitude and likable persona should guarantee them a spot amongst South Africa’s elite bands, at least in the long run. A lot hangs in the balance for The Fridge; all three members have quit their jobs to focus full-time on their music. Time will decide whether that decision was a wise one. And their wish? Thusi answers: “that people can appreciate the amount of work we put into the music.”

*Download their free EP
**Check out their website

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  1. do placation says:

    There’s a longstanding band called Fridge in England and their drummer is a guy who also releases under the name of Four Tet (heard of him?). Any local band with healthy ambition would do well to steer clear of such names.

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  2. Thato Tsotetsi says:

    Seems Thusi has been a mainstay in The Fridge, the lineup seems to change a lot…anyway, I dig them.

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  3. […] job of keeping hip-hop alive in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Artists such as Zubz, Ill Skillz, and The Fridge have performed at their monthly Sunday sessions at one point or another. This mixtape serves as […]

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  4. Anonymous says:

    I love Sam

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  5. Naadz says:

    dam Sam rocks his voce his style oh nd yeah his way cute

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  6. […] H/T: Mahala Sharing?Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tagged The Fridge […]

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  7. msikazi@kzn says:

    i hate the fact that Sam left the soil for this, I mean he is the real deal,now the soil sucks without him,if i had 1 wish I wud wish him to join the Soil again the guy is magnificent

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  8. Wilson says:

    You hv ur rights to direffing. I think your love for Olaiya hs beclouded the Muse so much that you are comparing incomparables. Still you are entittled to your opinions after all, music according to experts is emotional and not an intellectual appeal. You are talking about ethnic appeals I wnt 2 tell u dt Ghana, Latin and Swahili songs are enjoyed not bcos we know wht they say bt bcos of rhythm and order. Hv u listened to BERE BOTE, SAWALE or JOLLY PAPA lately?

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  9. Zeera says:

    I do not listen to this type of music, but these guys sure know how to convert someone! I am utterly and irrevocably in love with this band. Need to know when and where they’re performing. Peace, Love and Happiness xoxo

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  10. RAYLENE says:

    We need sam to go back to the soil ASAP! NO offense 2 da other guyz in da group. Sam was perfect with THE SOIL, u inspired me and a lot of people arnd SA especially in soweto. PLS CUM BCK

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  11. Irven says:

    I would like to know how when is ur next performance, how does one keep up to date….. With when and where’s, performance wise.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    everyone who says sam should go back to the soil, how do you think the other guys feel, and what are the chances of him going back, it will be like going to beg for your job back when you are the one that quit. it will also give him a bad reputation, in that he will seem as some sort of gold digger – it will seem as though now that the soil has made it, he wants to come join the group again?! just let the guy enjoy what he is doing and stop trying to make him second guess his decision, hau!!

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  13. thuli says:

    Gudness…so overly opinionated nd judgemental sum of you are. Ani khathali hini? Damn. Must halla thou at these black men 4 making authenticity work 4 them despite talks and watnot. Do you man…do real. Props. Wud love to see your art live, mayb evn lend my voice. Love it

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  14. Venormmoth says:

    Sam,Thusi and Ade….guyz your music is potentially the BOMB atomic,you nurtured and fused the feel of Lounge,jazz,neo soul,the band is already successful am no prophet but that am assured…Music is spiritual. You BOYZ pursue endlessly. PEACE,love and Good music #keep it up Magents

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Wasup fellow musicians, SAMZA I’m speechless that voice is on another world

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  16. MILLZ says:

    Wasup fellow musicians, SAMZA I’m speechless that voice is on another world

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  17. Dominic Hans says:

    Sam is a very smart guy. His writing skills are top notch let alone vocal dynamics. I’ve been listen to all the stuff he’s done and pleased. I criticize too much when it comes to music ’cause I want everything to be on point but with Sam nothing can ever go wrong!

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  18. Happiness says:

    I am blown away by this sound, the base guiter is on point Thusi, Ade you a drum fanatic, Sam you make it all sound together. Love love love you boys

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  19. Thembani says:

    I love the the fact that Sam has identified a strong point in his music style and trying to make a solo career out of. I however think there’s still more for him sure with The SOIL and it’ll be nice to see a collaboration with The Fridge or Sam doing “Featuring” pieces with The SOIL.

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  20. Mrembola says:

    Jealous down,Comrade Samkele is the future!!!!

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  21. Sipho says:

    Samke i admire you poy, you stuck to what you believed in and showed people that money can’t buy you, unlike other artist who sell their souls for fame. your time will come and when it does it will all be worth the patience. You make singing sound easy everything you do when singing looks effortless, that’s what i call PURE TALENT

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  22. sizwe lyf -witness mkhonza says:

    guys I luv your sound it so sweet and unique and it so different but I would like to know personal from Sam why did you leave the soil if you don’t mind you can send me an e-mail you rock dude, and when its your newt performance.

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  23. QUE says:

    And What Happens to Samthing Soweto Now?? 🙁

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  24. Thando says:

    I Loooove Samkelo Samza Mdolomba.. His voice is incredible. He knows how to just soothe my soul. His so cute n I wish them all the luck n success (The Fridge)

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  25. August Maligan says:

    So, I met Thusi on a random rainy afternoon at the now defunct Keanes, a club that was right opposite Roka (also defunct) in the 44 Stanley Ave complex (the purveyor of spaces such as Maboneng and 70 Juta). He was the bassist in a band that was backing Mac Manaka during the launch of his then first anthology and I just fell in love. We exchanged digits etc and I found myself landing in spaces where he would be performing.

    During the rise of Blk Jks, The Brother Moves On, The Frown and the like (when most of them were very unknown and exclusive to the underground performance circuit) I then found out about the band The Fridge, before Sam, and they were awesome! Enter Sam and a new dynamic was added to the ensemble that unlike Blk Jks, wasn’t too heavy on complex and heavily layered lyricism and instrumentation/arrangements that can sometimes come off as trite, different from TBMO in how they didn’t take themselves too seriously by being too deep and meaningful or too focused on stylistic and/or aesthetic presentation much like The Frown. Here were three guys that were completely different from one another physically, artistically and stylistically that seemed (to me at least) simply in love with music and the process of creating music.

    In something of a negative effect of this approach to music, they’ve gone largely ignored hence in recent times only TBMO, Blk Jks (if they can still be called a collective, what of their individual side projects) and The Frown (wonder what’s going on there since Eve fired everyone…) have uhm, ‘made it’ if you must? Hahaha! Anyway, I dig these boys because they just do it and seem unconcerned about what everyone (especially the readers of Mahala) seems to think should accompany their music. Let the fellas be!!!

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  26. zee says:

    please go back to the soil maaaan,please…..pleeeeeeeeeease

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Samza your vocal ability magnificant, your technique n composition on songs is unique. So continue to do what you do best and I hope we continue 2 hear ur work.

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  28. […] EP link but you can download the EP free from a link provided by Zimbabwe music culture site Mahala … I’d rather find a way we can pay the band for their loveliness, but that’s the […]

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  29. Siya says:

    Thanks for the free track, that what I call fan service.
    You let us know when you guys are performing in Cape Town.
    My birthday is coming up soon If I had “uCASH” I would definitely hire you guys.

    Thanks again for the great music.

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  30. Motsoeneng mahlomola says:

    Sam man ur voice was perfect with the soil..we need u back again man.please

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  31. […] job of keeping hip-hop alive in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Artists such as Zubz, Ill Skillz, and The Fridge have performed at their monthly Sunday sessions at one point or another. This mixtape serves as […]

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  32. Anonymous says:

    I want to join your Group so how can i Audiation

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