Checking in with the "sound of a new South Africa".

The London Guardian wrote:

Indeed you’d be hard pushed to find a better example of the post-apartheid nation’s new cultural momentum and boundary-breaking sensibility.

Four East Rand boys who defy convention by shunning the indigenous urban soundtrack of kwaito, Blk Jks make sense of their world with guitars, their leftfield dub-rock powered by an unmistakable ‘heart of voodoo’.

‘Rock was always seen as a white thing, the music of the enemy,’ says guitarist Mpumi Mcata. ‘When we started, we encountered a lot of hostility. Soon, though, people realised that what we were making was far more in tune with what’s going on in South Africa now than any of the pop music playing on the radio.’

Kwaito is analogous to American hip hop in that it’s the soundtrack and lifestyle of urban youth in South Africa.  So omnipresent is kwaito that it’s a big deal that these guys, clearly part of that post-apartheid generation, embraced something outside of it.

An aside: What’s up with this British reviewer’s comment about their "heart of voodoo"?  White people gotta be careful not to always–reflexively, it seems–ascribe black creativity to some kind of atavistic impulse.  While the reviewer clearly embraces Blk Jks, he’s also making them some kind of fetishized other.  Ultimately, it’s reductive.  Maybe what he’s trying to say is that they’re synthesizing all of their cultural influences and experiences, which are markedly different than his.  But shouldn’t he have done the work to say that?  Beware hipster bigotry.

Okay, I’m coming down off the soapbox: Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Anyway, Blk Jks are very much worth checking out.  Their EP, Mystery, is available on iTunes.  And stay on the lookout for a full-length album.

Additional links:

Hat tip to Sean Jacobs for hipping me to the Guardian piece.

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  • That’s a great post, Rob. I had never heard of Kwaito before. There is another band that you might want to check out this metal band, Wrust from Botswana:

    I need to get my ass to NYC. We have a lot to talk about!

  • Thanks, Laina. Yeah, Bryan (Kaos Blac) mentioned them to me during his interview, so thanks for the link. Will definitely check them out.

    And, yes, you do need to get to NYC! Or I need to get to Toronto. Either way, we need to hook up and talk Black rock. Talk soon!