Music

Your Soul Needs This Hypnotic New BCUC Album More Than You Know

The 'Emakhosini' consists of three songs and spans a whole 40 minutes. Get lost in it.

When I was growing up in Swaziland, every now and then, I would be exposed to sangomas and gatherings involving the honoring of the ancestors. I observed some rituals being performed. Those rituals involved a lot of signing, dancing, chanting, screaming, stomping of the ground and the sound of drums.

The music of BCUC, aka Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness, the 7-piece "afro psychedelic" band from Soweto, reminds me of those ceremonies.


The singing contains the same eeriness. The bongo drums create an environment that makes even the faithless consider that maybe there's more to life than meets the eye.

Just like on their 2016 debut album, Our Truth, the band's latest album, Emakhosini, is hypnotic. It contains just three songs that are, on average, 15 minutes long each. Only the third song, which is the album's lead single, is the standard length at 3:25.

It takes a lot to make long songs long that feel short. And the songs on Emakhosini aren't just long for the sake of it. It's like a long form essay that boasts colorful details that you can't fit in a byte size piece. The songs on the album often feel like many songs preceding each other at times, but the ever-present bass guitar and percussions always tie them together.

The songs meander, contort, dip and peak; with extensive transitions in between that make all these changes make sense.

The music is highly spiritual in nature—"Nobody Knows" plays out like a Zion church hymn, and the chants and screams just remind me of church. It's the bongo drums and the rapping (if I may) that give it a twist.

The first two songs are like the soundtrack of the rituals and sessions I mentioned earlier. As the name of the album says, you are among your ancestors and kings.

Emakhosini will hypnotize you for a whole 40 minutes, and just like with most pieces of art that are highly spiritual, the effect will differ from one individual to another.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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