BCUC burst onto stages in the same way that their music knocked down your heart’s door. They might not be the band South Africa deserves, but they’re the band we need right now. With their debut EP Our Truth just released, and their visit to The Good Luck Bar for OneSight Acoustics this Sunday, we asked them a few questions about why taking your time is important…
“Every song is a journey, is an awakening, it is a beginning of a new wave,” says Nkosi Zithulele – the charming, but equally serious frontman of BCUC (short for Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness).
“Just like athletes, we warm up and stretch the soul, the mind, the energy and the collective aura of the band, and the room or performance area. This whole process is infused in the journey of the song that we are playing at that moment. Five minutes is never enough, in fact five minutes is when we are about to start. Moments later we find the song around fifteen minutes – by that time we are feeling it. When the time comes for us to stop, that is when the audience does not want the song to stop. Then as the performers that we are, we oblige and give the people some more until the song says, ‘no, it’s enough now.'”
BCUC, roughly referring to human continuation of the freedom of consciousness, comes with a message. “Our Truth,” as their EP title suggests. They define their genre as “African-Ngungungu – formally known as Afro-psychedelic.” Being a percussion-heavy band, I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that between 6 members they only have one melodic instrument – a bass guitar. But they make up for it with “crazy chants, you add our harmony, and you add our Soweto swag and etiquette” – a combination that, together with their animated and energetic performance, have crossed language barriers on their visits to Europe.
“The ten percent [of the show] that the language covers doesn’t become as important anymore. The audience is not stupid; they sense what you are saying by facial expressions, by gestures, by your tone and your aura.”
Their music – “rebellious, situational, spiritual and ritualistic” – combines elements of African traditional music with blues, funk, punk, kwaito, and hip-hop.
“Luckily we sing soul music. Our songs are powered by some kind of a force or spirit that requires us to be honest to the music and honest to ourselves – always. For us it doesn’t matter whether the audience is lively or dead still. Whatever the environment or the mood that the audience has, it comes back to us on stage as energy. All we do is sift through the confusion, the shock, the pushback, and transform it into positive vibes and reassurance – with a pinch of we-don’t-have-it-all-figured-out, but we are merely optimists.
“We are whatever is needed at the time to a particular individual that is watching our show.”
“Enjoying the music and not concentrating on the message is a beautiful thing. At the same time analyzing and breaking down the message to the hypnotic journey that the music takes you through is also a good thing. Lastly, regretting why you got so high or so drunk to an extent that you cannot take in the music any more is an amazing rock and roll experience. All these opposites make us an unforgettable band and experience.”
Just like their longer-than-usual songs, their EP (Our Truth) took its time to arrive. It was finally released last week.
“Recording the music is the easiest part; we are a first-take type of band.”
“We do not have expectations of how the music should sound. We never know what the end product is going to be. Believe it or not our music is weird even to us, so every time after recording we take more than two weeks of listening to the playback. After that we devise a way of mixing our recording the way it wants to be mixed. That process has never taken less than six months.”
“On this project there was added pressure because Nyami Nyami Records wanted to sign us. Luckily our engineers Byron Muller from Markon Recording Studios and Raiven Hansmann from Popsicle Studios were so amazing and up to the challenge. One of the challenges was to make both recordings sound like they belong on the same EP.”
This Sunday, BCUC is playing at OneSight Acoustics (the third in a series of four events), helping raise funds for a global nonprofit which provides sustainable access to quality vision care and eye wear to those who cannot afford it or do not have access to it. Since they like describing their music as “for the people by the people with the people”, it feels like a natural and inevitable choice for them to be involved in an initiative like this.
“We had to be involved with OneSight,” Nkosi says. “It gives the gift of sight and we think that it is a very cool initiative. Giving back for us is an everyday reality. Firstly we are kind, we are accepting, we are non-judgmental, we help our parents, we are there for our friends and we are generally good community members so giving back to us is second nature.”
BCUC is an “African-Ngungungu” band from Soweto. They will be playing at The Good Luck Bar for OneSight Acoustics this Sunday (with Reason, December Streets, and DJ Invizable) – You can totally WIN FREE TICKETS from TheFlow.co.za. Otherwise, get your tickets from WebTickets.