We’re not just travelling together geographically, but sonically and internally too
I am in the back of a tour van with six black South Africans driving through the English countryside for weekend shows in Bristol and Deal, Kent. After a week in, week out of shows in London, ranging from Oppikoppi meets Rocking the Daisies on steroids, with a setting that resembles Hogwarts in the woods at the secret garden party, a famous jazz club, a secret soiree and studio session, we leave the iconography of Big Ben juxtaposed against the familiarity of artist engineered creative and socio-cultural spaces being threatened by gentrification.
Let’s recap: Thursday night’s Beat Afrique Party featuring the Nubiyan Twist Djs is our second show in seven months at the The CLF Art Café/Bussey Building in Peckham. The inception of which was to fight the proposed demolition of the area to create a tram depot. After three years of exhibitions and events, the Bussey Building is now a protected conservation area and functions as a community art space that houses live music venues, film, yoga, and poetry clubs. I wonder if similar spaces have or could possibly exist in the South African context – and if the state would see the value of investing in art and community spaces that enabled the creation of local economies and building communities, an issue much discussed on this tour.
The night before Siya and I headed to Brixton, genuine patois, the smell of jerk chicken and bean soup, began to fade as the gentrification extinguishes the inner cities, equivalent of a black Fordsburg. We arrive at the Studio to meet Nico from Wormfood to record remixes of TBMO songs, as well as a new collaborative project between myself and Siya, temporarily named Fuccboi.
Tuesday is the gig at Sofar Sounds London with Shabakah Hutchings at a secret venue in the heart of the Business District. The Brother Moves On has also played Sofar Sounds in Johannesburg, so we’re familiar with the layout. Packed into an uber, we drive to London’s Business district and unload the car playing Desiigners panda at full volume amidst the nine to fivers. We’re used to the stares by now, with two band members having dyed their hair bright blue and pink and go about our business as usual.
There is a monolith of glass coliseums to the umpteenth floor. There is a tech conference happening downstairs at 1 More Place, One of London’s burgeoning tech development spaces. We’re greeted by the confusion on people’s faces as a group of ten musicians walk into the lobby. The modern office space morphs into what would become the stage that night, as strangers gradually pour into the space, lights cameras and sound are being set up against the backdrop: a setting sun. We’re being introduced to the two other acts performing that night- Sonia Bernado and Quigley.
Quietly as we came, we all disappeared into the London street lights for an evening of clubbing and meeting new people. Monday night was played at the Jazz Café in Camden, Saul Williams had played the same venue a month earlier; we hung out on an island in Marseille a few weeks earlier at Festival Mimi, talking about music and how we all came to know of each other online before we met in person.
Our first show of this tour marked the end of his tour and the start of ours. It was as though the tour gods commissioned the handing over of a musical baton between travelling brothers. That’s what this space has made me realise, we’re not just travelling together geographically, but sonically and internally. Here I am in the back of a tour van heading to the end of the English coast.
Written by Itai Hakim