Undergoing a wave of urban and rural encounters with roots-folk
I had the privilege of witnessing Urban Village perform live at the Oppikoppi thresholds last year August, and fam the echoes of their performance still reverberates in my eardrums till date. The band’s incredible interaction, improvisation and spontaneity during live performances is the result of their individual self-taught experiences derived prior to the band’s initiation.
Urban Village is a Soweto-based folk music band, founded in August 2013 by the guitarist/vocalist Lerato Lichaba and their music is layered with electric, funky acoustic melodies and a blend of traditional influences. The band is also made of the bassist Smanga Dlamini, the vocalist Tubatsi Moloi who also plays the flute, Mojalefa Mofokeng who’s on the percussion and Xolani Mtshali on drums.
One could describe their music as undergoing a wave of urban and rural encounters or a concoction of gypsy and contemporary folk, with traditional roots or however you want to describe them. They choose to consider their style as “indigenous music”.
The band launched their debut EP called Bantu Art earlier this year. Comprising of songs that summon a nostalgic passion of our grandparents telling stories of old while we’re gathered around ‘Imbawula’. The EP reels you in with an ushering of a flute in ‘Inkani‘ – automatically transcending you into a spiritual state, furthermore, when you already thought you’ve been absorbed into the song, it soars to the peak of choral laments pleading for ‘Ubuntu’.
Man, they’re so good!
Moloi’s pied piper-like flute skills will have you travelling under the spell of his soundwaves through a journey that has been paved by our ancestors on ‘My Calling’. A song that sounds like a quest for guidance and comfort here on Earth. “Take me by the hand and lead me down the road…” are words that you hear immediately after ‘My Calling‘, in a song called ‘Sakh’isizwe’, about building a nation whereby we solicit wisdom from those who came before us, also pleading for unity amongst ourselves. The backdrop percussions by Mojalefa blended with the display guitar strings gives this tune a bit of feel good vibe that makes you want to get up and kick the imaginary dust.
The crowd favourite song ‘uBaba’ (I’m guilty of going nuts over this song) showcases the vocal power the band possess in their music. The celebratory styles of these songs make ‘uBaba’ and ‘Makolo Part 2.’ my favourite songs from this EP.
It has hard to even skip a song in this project. This is genuinely pure art. Every hum, beat, every instrument brings an essentially unique sound to each and every song.
Urban Village makes haunting melodies that encapsulates day-to-day personal and societal experiences echoed with teachings.
Written by Thabiso Molatlhwa