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Things that go Bump in the Night

by Sheetal Magan / 04.09.2009

It was with the feverish anxiety of someone in an unnecessary accident that I made my way to Newtown to check out the BLK JKS perform at the Bassline.

I have definitely had numerable encounters with Jozi’s excess but I can’t say that I have ever started a night out on the town with a stop off at the police station. But Wednesday night was precisely that kind of night, with a graphic reminder of why I have made a point of avoiding 7th street in Melville for the past two years. It has regressed from its former ‘Mecca for the alternative’ status into cesspool for degenerate student self indulgence where drag racing down what should clearly be a pedestrian road in the late afternoon has become the norm. The busted lip on the front of my station wagon might be a useful daily reminder of this fact, but while I usually dismiss the nicks and bumps from a night a out with a casual – ‘ Dit Gee meer karakter’ – this half-wit had managed to make my lady ugly, and I was not impressed.

What exactly a music conference is, I can’t be sure, but apparently that’s where I was headed only to find it quite packed, although I had admittedly not even heard that it was happening till I was asked to go. The overall vibe was fairly chilled, with most of the crowd attentively contemplating the showcase of jazz until the BLK JKS took the stage and the energy became progressively up-tempo.

The BLK JKS have a strong stage presence, what with their no non-sense afro-chic sense of style style, self assured interaction with the audience and improvisation that comes so easily. Their music was surprisingly reminiscent of several influences from Psychedelic Rock to Radiohead, and yet there is nothing derivative about their sound and the overall blend has something both innovative, intuitive and authentic going on. People certainly seemed familiar with their music, which is surprising if you consider that their first full-length album, After the Robots has only just been released. I was however, reminded by a good friend and BLK JKS enthusiast, that they struggled to achieve any recognition in South Africa until they received it overseas. Hmmm, yes, but all the politics of SA Music aside, they definitely won my vote for the centre stage and a full house.

They certainly seemed to have the both the whities and the darkies jiving with enthusiasm, which was at times worse than it sounded, but it was good to see, and not in the optimistic candy coated rainbow nation sense so much as seeing a variety of people with an appreciation for good rock music. In the end, I do think that there is something pretentious about the Jazz scene in Newtown, when people flock to see the BLK JKS and yet don’t recognize a rendition of ‘Mannenburg’ performed by the New Yorkers.

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