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Blk Jks - Zol!


by Dave Durbach / 15.09.2010

The BLK JKS may not be the most overrated band out there, although they could certainly be the most hyped. More words have been written about this band than most others in South Africa put together. Legions of dedicated music scribes have tried to capture their sound in words, as if a suitable amount of ideating, strings of non-descriptive adjectives and the conjuring up of comparisons could serve any purpose other than to confuse readers into becoming curious, or to stroke the writers’ own egos.

Without adding too much to this glut of verbiage then, the band has put out a new EP, their interim follow-up to 2009’s After Robots. The 5-track EP features two relatively straightforward rock songs – “Lietys” and “Paradise” – gloomy, shoegazing stuff that gives unsuspecting listeners some frame of reference – and three more homegrown tracks: the slow moving jazz chanting of “Bogobe”, the FIFA-flavoured “Zol!”, mbaqanga bassline to kasi house beat, with an uncharacteristically singalong chorus (“I can roll and shoot at the same time…”), and the electrified toyi-toyiing of “Mzabalazo”

As usual, their sound is an emphatic yet dizzying blend of influences too many to mention, far less accessible to most fans than the band members’ style or photogeneity.

When so many local bands struggle to even get heard, much less written about, one of the many ways in which the BLK JKS have proven unique is that they’ve managed to find equal measures of success at home and abroad. Just as interesting, possibly more so, than their music itself, is the gushing excitement with which the BLK JKS have been lapped up by America. The all-American studio crew behind Zol! is perhaps another reason for the apparent ease with which a band as idiosyncratic as the BLK JKS have been translated (and marketed) to the hipsters of this world.


Most encouraging is how instead of getting caught up in the hype, Lindani, Mpumi, Molefi and Tshepang seem to be taking it all with a pinch of salt. They’ll keep on doing the corporate gigs and Top Billing interviews, but in the studio, they’ll bow to no one’s expectations, nor seek validation from anyone but themselves.

In short, Zol! is a sweet mini-album that further enforces the band’s status as leaders of intelligent, proudly African yet internationally accessible rock music.

Consider what others (from far less reputable publications than this one) have had to say…

“BLK JKS are a perfect South African showpiece for a worldwide audience – an indie rock powerhouse that goes beyond the kwaito and mbaqanga sounds that South Africa is primarily known for.” – Pop Matters

“There’s not a moment on Zol! that’s not at least a little left of centre, but its main selling point is that it’s unusual without being inscrutable. Come for the mind-fuck; stay for the fun.” – Absolutepunk

“In a community where song is a universal form of expression and communication, BLK JKS succeed in shining light on that element of South African culture.” – Glide Magazine

“While there’s been plenty of South African musicians making names for themselves in the last half century of spreading pop monoculture, there’s yet to be the sort of rock band that gallops past its international peers, leaving a scene in its wake, and redefining the way listeners think about the nation………There’s a nifty validation that comes when a pop artist emerges from a place with a different musical tradition and excels in a genre that isn’t even fully appreciated in its native land…. Lord knows indie fans are insecure that their scene is too pale and bourgeois, so hearing dramatic crescendos coming from guys who were born under apartheid has an inherent interest.” – Dusted Magazine

“Detractors will continue to criticize the band’s lack of a singular cohesive sound, but that misses the point. BLK JKS continue to defy expectations, and are consistently one of the most interesting rock bands currently on the go.” – Chart Attack

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  1. julius says:

    i wouldn’t call the EP version of ‘Paradise’ a ‘fairly straightforward rock song’ – toward the end it verges toward an improvisational implosion of an intensity unlike anything i’ve heard from SA. I also don’t get why people moan about them being overhyped when they were all but ignored by the local media for more than four years. And if their US success is more interesting than their music to you, well…fark.

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  2. Max says:

    I really enjoyed the approach. The reference to other publications who reviewed the BLK JKS is great.

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  3. Karin says:

    Love the blk jks but I can’t find anywhere where I CAN PAY FOR THEIR MUSIC.


    Otherwise i’m just going to have to pirate it like I have done for every one of their other albums. (not by choice, I must add)

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  4. Alistair (-) E. Moose says:

    That Glide magazine quote is the most idiotic thing I have ever read. I’m actually raging at how fucking stupid these cunts are.

    “In a community where song is a universal form of expression and communication, BLK JKS succeed in shining light on that element of South African culture.”

    What a patronising load of kak! Plus the second half of that sentence is so clumsily written. But what are they trying to say? I mean, where isn’t song a ‘universal form of expression’; and the use of the word ‘universal’ implies it transcends that community anyway.

    And the Dusted Magazine review too – yeah, that’s right asshole. We’re just third-world amusement for you. Ooh, look – indie from the jungle! Fuck you.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Heh heh. Loves it when angry peoples say things like “Indie from the jungle? Fuck you!”

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  6. nyet comrade says:

    Clearly this one was a bit more of a challenge for Comrade Durbach, who has spent a lifetime trying to convince white South Africans that they should be listening to a lot more music made by their black compatriots. So how will he deal with a black band who have embraced the musical styles that their white compatriots have held dear?

    Apparently not very well. More remarks about the circumstances surrounding the band than their actual music. Offhanded jibes about “gloomy shoegazing” to downplay the genre barriers that Blk Jks have challenged. Very little insight into the role that this band could play in guiding and reshaping the music made by other black South Africans that he loves so much. And then deferral to bland remarks from other publications. Very disappointing indeed.

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  7. snapper says:

    i saw zol! at musica a few days ago so it can’t be that hard

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  8. Karin says:

    DIGITAL people.

    I haven’t bought a physical CD in at least 5 years and neither have 80% of the people who like the BLK JKS and go to their performances.

    My one criticism of the BLK JKS is that they’re too modest – that makes sense when they get on stage, never play to the crowd, and stay pretty elusive in terms of media. But distribution is a different story.


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  9. nyet comrade says:

    @Karin. Amen, sister! Nice to know that other readers are joining the 21st Century. Adapt or vrek.

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  10. Karin says:

    @ julius. do you perhaps have an american itunes account i can use?

    itunes doesn’t allow you to create a new account without a credit card anymore from your own country. So, my money’s going to booze and clothes ’til someone figures out a way to let me pay for music.

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  11. julius says:

    sorry karin, didnt realise itunes was so territorially retarded.

    I tried to check on Justmusic’s site who are ostensibly BLK JKS’s SA label but after having to hear a Locnville extract loop five times i just had to slit my wrists and i’m now dead in a pool of my own blood.

    Don’t know if Amazon is perhaps a bit more forgiving?


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  12. Karin says:

    Nope. I’ve already tried there.

    I used to pay $10 a month to a site called emusic.com for 30 songs a month but over time their catalogue became more and more limited for south african users to the point where you couldn’t download anything – they dont even allow SA users to register anymore.

    And the BLK JKS label is called Secretly Canadian…as far as i know they dont have an SA label.

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  13. julius says:

    Ok, then the only remaiining option is to point out to Rhythm Online that there’s no ZOL sandwiched between Bok van Blerk and Boeremusiek Vol. 3 on their virtual shelf.

    I’m pretty sure the JKS told me Just is their label in SA but that could have been only for AR, or have fallen through or i could have dreamed it.

    Just trying to help! .

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  14. Steppin' Wolfe says:

    I love the way Julius chipped in “I’m pretty sure the JKS told me Just is their label” on two levels.

    Level 1: the use of “I’m pretty sure” as in ‘oh, this is so casual, my life is so hectic I can’t really remember.’

    Level 2: the use of “The JKS told me” ’cause yeah, you the man hobnobbing with all them celebs ‘n shit.

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  15. julius says:

    i used to work in a small music store and i emailed them once to ask where i could get their cd from.

    ‘pretty sure’ as in, ‘you may be right’. Let me have my tiny bit of self-importance man!

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  16. Roger Young says:

    I love the way Steppin Wolf thinks that a conversation (email or otherwise) with a celeb is so important that it must be remembered in detail.

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  17. isolation says:

    the song is called “iietys” as in “It’s in every thing you’ll see”

    A reworking of the later track from the Mystery EP – Just Saying!

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  18. Sean says:

    The EP is available on Kalahari.net


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