Freshlyground

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  • ZOLANI MAHOLA LEAD VOCALS
  • JOSH HAWKS BASS GUITAR, VOCALS
  • SEREDEAL SCHEEPERS KEYBOARDS, PERCUSSION
  • KYLA-ROSE SMITH VIOLIN, VOCALS
  • SIMON ATTWELL FLUTE, MBIRA, HARMONICA, SAXOPHONE
  • JULIO SIGAUQUE ELECTRIC & ACOUSTIC GUITAR
  • PETER COHEN DRUMS

 

Over the past seven years, and across three acclaimed albums, it’s become increasingly hard to precisely pinpoint just one reason why Freshlyground is so universally adored.

Is it the magical combination of the players? - Zolania Mahola (lead vocals), Josh Hawks (bass), Seredeal Scheepers (keyboards, percussion), Kyla-Rose Smith (violin), Simon Attwell (flute, mbira, harmonica, sax), Julio Sigauque (guitars) and Peter Cohen (drums) together creating, as Time Magazine put it, a Benetton-esque lineup crossing cultural and age boundaries with ease.

Or is it the fact that the seven-piece has created a signature sound, most overtly rooted in Afro-pop but drawing on a head-spinning array of influences including soul, folk, kwassa-kwassa, and global dance – a sound that’s delivered some of South Africa’s most evergreen radio and dancefloor hits?

Maybe it’s the band’s legendary live shows which have been honed into something consistently special, driven by an infectious energy that no audience around the world has been able to resist?

Most likely, ‘though, as any devoted Freshlyground fan (and there are many!) will tell you, it’s a combination of all of these things: for FG devotees, the magic lies in a band featuring excellent players who together write and record material that’s impossible not to embrace and then perform it live with the kind of energy that makes for lifelong memories.

Now, with their fourth studio album, ‘Radio Africa’, Freshlyground is preparing to broadcast the ingredients that have turned the seven-piece into one of South Africa’s most treasured acts to the rest of the continent and the world.

Of course, the fact that the band was chosen to co-perform the Official Anthem for the 2010 World Cup already means more eyes are going to be on this Cape Town-based outfit than ever before.

Titled ‘ Time For Africa” the song is featured on “Listen Up: The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Album™,” and is a collaboration with Colombian superstar, Shakira. Much like ‘Radio Africa’ itself, the presence of Freshlyground on ‘Time For Africa’ came about organically: the band was in New York in February this year, putting the finishing touches to ‘Radio Africa’ when they happened to connect with Shakira’s producer who mentioned the Colombian superstar was working on a song for the 2010 World Cup.

As Mahola puts it, “They thought our African flavour would suit the sound so we set about crafting our contribution and they liked it.” Indeed, Mahola’s distinctive, honeyed voice stands out in the powerful song and Sigauque’s mbaqanga-influenced guitaring turns the anthem into something powerfully African.

The ability to craft music that’s global in its outlook yet remains true to its roots in Africa is something that Freshlyground has always managed with ease – and has now taken to pretty extraordinary new heights on ‘Radio Africa’.

Assisting in showcasing Freshlyground’s maturity and growth was Fabrice 'Fab' Dupont who’s highly respected as a mixer for Santogold, Mark Ronson and others. The Frenchman, who is now based in New York, became the first international producer to work with Freshlyground, whose previous three albums (‘Jika Jika’, 2003, ‘Nomvula’, 2005 and ‘Ma Cheri’, 2007) have come out of an insular creative working space.

The band was eager to explore a different dynamic with their fourth studio album and, says drummer Cohen, the decision proved the right one. “Working with Fab was a creative and emotionally stimulating journey from Long Street to Alphabet City and back. Radio Africa tells that story.”

Most importantly, Fab encouraged Freshlyground to pay close attention to the vibrance and energy that marks the band’s live shows and that really delivers something special to the Freshlyground sound. As Hawks relates its, “We went into it with a Motown feel in that we all recorded in a big room together, and I think the album that came out of that experience is our most earthy so far.”

It’s a significant claim for a band that’s never been known to trade on anything other than a sense of authenticity that’s been deeply revered by Freshlyground’s members since day one.

But take a listen to songs like first single ‘Fire Is Low’ and the expansive, organic element that Freshlyground is built on surfaces like never before. From Mahola’s exquisitely paced vocal to the easy-playing and handclaps in a song of love, this is music that’s, quite simply, easy to adore. It’s the same with ‘Moto’, a lilting track that features lyrics drawn from a traditional chorus sung in the north of Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania and is nothing short of a terrific expression of Freshlyground’s pan-African standpoint.

Love, intimacies, and relationships in all their multi-hued glory have always provided fodder for Mahola’s lyrics (‘Pot Belly’ off ‘Ma Cheri, ‘I’d Like’ off ‘Nomvula’) and ‘Radio Africa’ doesn’t stint on these. Songs like the moving ‘Baba’ (sung in Xhosa, a woman bereft at the failure of her man to provide to her and her children), and ‘Baby In Silence’ are wondrous and transporting – perhaps amongst the best emotion-driven songs Freshlyground has ever written.

But, organic and naturally-derived as ‘Radio Africa’s’ sonic bedrock is, it doesn’t mean Freshlyground has stepped back from any form of social commentary. Quite the contrary. One of the standouts on ‘Radio Africa’ is ‘Big Man’ featuring Les Nubians and a powerful reminder of what has happened to the dream set out in South Africa’s Freedom Charter (“wear fancy clothes/drive big expensive car … what’s the solution/material pollution”). Also taking a charged – yet utterly irresistible – view of Africa’s current affairs is “Chicken To Change”, a direct take on Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe that’s likely to cause some tongue wagging.

That Freshlyground’s able to comment on the goings on – good and bad – of Africans is not surprising: As Maputo-born Sigauque says, “Our different backgrounds mean that we bring different things to the band.” As well as a melting pot of opinions, musically the diverse mix is one of Freshlyground’s real strengths. “Because we come from different parts of Africa and South Africa, we bring different elements to the music which gives it a fresh sound,” says Scheepers.

In the end, ‘Radio Africa’ is perhaps the fullest expression yet of Freshlyground’s development as a truly African band. “We have matured as players and as a band over the last seven years and the album depicts our development as well as our rootedness here in South Africa and the greater African diaspora,” is how violinist Smith puts it.

With their 2010 World Cup song alerting a whole new global audience to this genuine South African treasure, and a new album that delivers the songs, the performances, and the unmistakable spirit of this South African band, Freshlyground’s poised for something really special. Listen up!

ABOUT FRESHLYGROUND

 

Born in 2002 out of the cultural hotbed that is Cape Town South Africa, Freshlyground have become the musical voice of a nation’s adolescent democracy. Featuring members of different ethnicities from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe their diverse backgrounds have allowed them to weave a musical magic that is highly infectious and undeniably groovy.

Beginning with the release of Jika Jika in 2003 Freshlyground have carved out a massive following both in South Africa and around the world. Their music - a fusion of rock, jazz and Afro-pop - has proven time and time again to be a favourite amongst all audiences from young children to their grandparents. The skill and joy with which it is delivered have made them perpetual crossover favourites.

Nomvula, their multi-platinum 2004 release, broke new ground for South African pop acts. Its first single - Doo Be Doo - was the most played song in South Africa in 2005. With four hit singles following it, Nomvula propelled the band to heights few reach. It has taken them to stages and festivals around Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. With 2007’s Ma Cheri the band cemented their status as one of the finest acts to have ever come out of Southern Africa. They have won numerous awards including 4 South African Music Awards, 4 Metro FM Awards and an MTV Europe Music Award for "Best African Act" -a first for any SA musician.

Freshlyground have not forgotten their roots in the gritty reality of Sub-Saharan Africa where so many suffer. They have been supporters of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation since playing a fund raising concert for the Foundation in 2005.

Freshlyground now release ‘Radio Africa’ in May 2010. During the course of the year they will be touring extensively throughout South Africa as well as Europe, the US and Asia. Expect “the most important South African act of the 21st century” to continue winning the hearts of fans and packing venues all over the world.

RELEASES:

 

  • JIKA JIKA, released by Freeground Records, 2003
  • NOMVULA, released by Freeground Records / Sony BMG, 2004
  • MA CHERI, released by Freeground Records / Sony BMG, 2007
  • LIVE DVD, released by Freeground Records / Sony BMG, 2008
  • JIKA JIKA, re mastered and re mixed, released by Freeground Records and distributed by Sony BMG, 2008
  • RADIO AFRICA, released by Freeground Records / Sony BMG, 2010

AWARDS :

 

  • SAMA AWARD – Album of the Year , Freshlyground for Ma Cheri, May 2008
  • SAMA AWARD - Best Duo/Group Freshlyground for Ma Cheri, May 2008
  • SAMA AWARD - Best Adult Contemporary English Album for Ma Cheri, May 2008
  • SAMA AWARD - Best Engineer for Ma Cheri, May 2008
  • MTV EUROPE AWARD – Best African Act Freshlyground, November 2006
  • METRO FM AWARD- Best Group, November 2007
  • METRO FM AWARD- Best Album, November 2007
  • METRO FM AWARD- Best African Pop Album, November 2007
  • METRO FM AWARD- Best African Pop Album, November 2005
  • CHANNEL O AWARD – Best African Band Freshlyground, 2008
  • O MUSIC VIDEO AWARDS NIGERIA – African Video of the Year for Pot Belly, April 2008
  • GOOD HOPE FM SA – Best performing Group Freshlyground, September 2008

INTERNATIONAL NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES :
*Listed chronologically

 

 

  • World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2010
  • Jazz Music Festival, Shanghai, The Republic of China, October 2009
  • Radio City Music Hall, New York City, NY, USA, July 2009
  • Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, Brooklyn, NY, USA, July 2009
  • Festival Nuits D’ Afrique, Montreal, Canada, July 2009
  • Hague Jazz Festival, The Netherlands, May 2009
  • Rome Auditorium, Rome, Italy, November 2008
  • AVO Sessions, Basel, Switzerland, November 2008
  • Barbican Centre, London, United Kingdom, November 2008
  • Theatre Royal Carre, The Netherlands, September 2008
  • Toast Festival, Kensington, United Kingdom, September 2008
  • Arrezzowave Festival, Livorno, Italy, July 2008
  • Zeltival, Karlsruhe, Germany, July 2008
  • Kultursummer Festival, Oldenburg, Germany, July 2008
  • Salisbury Festival, United Kingdom, June 2008
  • Roots in Ooster Park, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, June 2008
  • Lugano Festival De Jazz, Mendrisio, Switzerland, June 2008
  • Masala Festival , Hannover, Germany, June 2008
  • Mawazine Festival, Rabat, Morocco, May 2008
  • Spring Festival, Cairo, Egypt, May 2008
  • Harare International Festival of the Arts, Harare, Zimbabwe, May 2008
  • Lagos International Jazz Festival, Lagos, Nigeria, April 2008
  • Maputo International Jazz Festival, Maputo, Mozambique, April 2008
  • Jazz Café, London, United Kingdom, July 2006
  • FIFA World Cup Handover Ceremony, Berlin, Germany, June 2006
  • Branderburger Tor FIFA 04 event, Berlin, Germany, June 2006
  • Cannes Film Festival, NFVF, Cannes, France, May 2006
  • Aichi Expo, Nagoya, Japan, March 2005
  • Pukkelpop Festival, Belgium, August, 2005 Berlin, Germany 2004
  • National Theatre of the Arts, Windhoek, Namibia, July 2004
  • Villa Celimontana Festival, Rome, Italy, June 2004

SOUTH AFRICAN NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES
*Listed chronologically

 

  • FIFA World Cup 2010 Final Draw, Cape Town, December 2009
  • HIV /AIDS Awareness Conference, Durban, April 2009
  • Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Cape Town, April 2009
  • Macufe Festival, Bloemfontein, October 2005 and October 2008
  • Chris Burger Charity Fundraising Concert, Cape Town, August 2008
  • Oppikoppi, Northam, Pretoria, 08 August ’04, August 2005 and August 2008
  • 46664 Nelson Mandela HIV Fund, Johannesburg, December 2007
  • Desmond Tutu HIV-Foundation Benefit Concert, with Vusi Mahlasela, September 2005 and July 2006,

with Sipho Hotstix August 2008,

 

  • Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, July 2005
  • Standard Bank Arena, with Kenny Latimore and Chante Moore, September 2005
  • 10 Years of Democracy Closing Celebration, Athlone Stadium, Cape Town, February 2005
  • Standard Bank Jazzathon 2005, with Selaelo Selota, Cape Town, January 2005
  • Reconciliation day Festival, Cape Town, December 2004
  • Spier Arts Summer Season, collaboration with Oliver Mtukudzi and Mahube, Stellenbosch, December 2004
  • Olympic Torch Ceremony, Grand Parade, Cape Town, June 2004
  • North Sea Jazz Festival, Cape Town, April 2004
  • Freedom Parade, 10 years of Human Rights, Athlone Stadium, March 2004
  • The Design Indaba, CTICC, Cape Town, February 2004 and February 2005
  • Celebration of 10 years of Democracy, Green Market Square, Cape Town, February 2004
  • Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert, National Botanical Gardens, January 2004, March 2005, December 2006, December 2007, December 2008
  • Robben Island African Music Festival, Heritage Day, with Oliver Mtukudzi, Jonathan Butler, Judith Sephuma, V&A. Waterfront and Robben Island, September 2003

PRESS COMMENTARY:

 

Time Magazine, April 2007 
Alex Perry


“Freshlyground’s music may sound like it was manufactured by Benetton mixing not only race and gender but also nationality, musical style, language, age and even height… However the mix was created it’s one for which the world is developing a taste. Freshlyground’s ambivalence about their diversity hasn’t stopped others from seizing on them as the personification of the Rainbow Nation”

The Washington Post – December 2005


“Zanele Mazibuko has always hated the violin. And the flute? Forget it. For a child growing up in the black township of Soweto, she said, those instruments represented a distant world of white privilege, beyond a seemingly uncrossable racial divide.
But last week, something began to change her mind. It was a live performance by Freshlyground, one of South Africa's hottest bands, which features both a violin and a flute -- not to mention five white members out of seven. The music, a fusion of rock, jazz and Afro-pop, sounded "black," Mazibuko said, delighted and amazed. "The music they play, it just goes together”. “

Cape Argus , October 2007


“Freshlyground is probably going to become SA's most important band in the 21st century. I realised this when I watched them at Loftus Versfeld supporting Robbie Williams. Sixty thousand people sang along to their hits, with passion. And they're the biggest crossover group since Mandoza ...”

Y Magazine, Aug/Sep 2006
Toast Coetzer


“Their music is easy to like, covering a feel-good spectrum of distinctly South African pop, led by Zolani’s exuberant vocals, in English and Xhosa, and driven by an experienced and well-honed band. Mothers pushing prams in shaded parks will like it; sweaty people in stampvol taxis will like it, drunk students too. And it’s also great when you are alone. It’s bright and happy no matter whether your feet are plodding the grim streets of London or your head is stuck in a gnarly roll of post-breakup-chicken wire. Sure, you’ll like it too.”

Cape Etc, April 2004
Justin Zehmke:


“Freshlyground is an almost textbook example of how well consensus can work. From their choice of band name, which was decided upon after having fans vote, from a variety of options, to their music which the band members describe as organically grown through a system of teamwork that distributes contributions fairly evenly between the seven members, they exemplify the joys of the new South Africa. Add to this their prestigious gig at the most recent opening of Parliament and their multiracial, multinational members and one can’t help but think that this is the future of South African music. Judging by the cast amounts of critical and popular acclaim they have been generating it seems they are destined for greatness… I predict that soon Freshlyground will be as ubiquitous as the minibus taxi and just as popular. For now, make sure you catch them live while they are still playing small venues because this band is set to soar."

Mail and Guardian, April 2004
Miles Keylock:


"Unlike so many Cape Town bands, Freshlyground have managed to win more than a mere cult following…It's about the creative sparks that fly when cultures co-exist and collide…It's precisely this unpretentious blend of Mahola's classy multi-lingual vocals soars, Hawke's buoyant bass jams, Turest-Swartz's Pan African textures, and Simon Attwell and Smith's shimmering mbira-violin shades that make for an effervescent Afro-pop recipe that transcends any merely "eclectic" fusion.”

Juice Magazine, May 2010
Nikki Benatar:


South Africa’s sweethearts return with 11 brand-new Afrotastic songs. The slick, world-class sheen (courtesy of New York producer Fabrice Dupont) does not detract from the band’s familiar Afropop flavour. In fact, it’s a lot more Afro than pop. “Moto” is a brilliant opening track, introducing Zolani’s delightfully heart-warming voice, which snakes its way through a kaleidoscopic array of marimbas, kalimbas, mbiras, pan pipes and more. “Chicken to Change” is “dedicated” to Robert Mugabe and opens with a sound byte of his re-inauguration speech. In an ironic twist, the song’s weighty lyrics have been set to twinkling marimbas, fluttering drums and grooving rhythms, making it impossible to stop listening to it over and over again. If you’re looking for a “Doo Bee Doo”-style ditty, you won’t find it here – this album’s grittier and more grown-up than its award-winning, platinum-selling predecessors.

The Star, May 2010
Theresa Owen


“Boldly going where our local pop bands don't dare, into southern Africa. Freshlyground weren't kidding when they said were stepping away from pop with this, their fourth album. When compared to Jika Jika, it's not raw at all in the production sense, but it does have a more organic and live sound than Ma'Cheri. Cohesive for all that it brings together many different African influences, it's still the Cape Town-based band, but with less of the repetitive bubblegum sound our radio stations love. Instead we get an album that fuses African instruments and rhythms to more Western aural traditions without it becoming an overly produced "cross over" album.”

Channel 24, May 2010
Jean Barker


"Fusion"... it became a dirty word for a reason. Music may be a universal language, but that doesn't mean everyone speaks it the same way. You can't just toss anything together and have it work out great. Good intentions have their place, but the many collaborations wind up like the musical equivalent of bacon samoosas: annoying oingo-boingo cheese that is only bearable live, and even then only if you're drunk and trying to prove some kind of political point. The difficulties of fusion make Radio Africa even more of an achievement.

Travelpod, July 2010
Martina Mc Auley.

 

Marianne said to me "I defy anyone who doesn't want to move to this music". Well, within 10 minutes, the place was rockin'. The band do a very lively mix of African, pop, soul, folk and global dance music…… It's hard to imagine that such a small person can have such a strong personality, with such vibrant energy and spirit. She was cocky, but in a nice way and she had a fire and passion that would light up the whole of Africa. Her energy was contagious, as she bopped around the stage, commanding attention.”

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