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