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Get Familiar With Sun Xa Experiment’s ‘Spiritual Ancestral’ Sound

The South African band's new single 'Bayede' from their upcoming album Umculo Umuthi is a good place to start.

Sun Xa Experiment is a South African group from Soweto. The septet is made up of Buyisiwe Njoko (lead vocals), Tebogo Mkhize (acoustic guitar), Lerato Seitei (electric guitar), Benedict Watte (percussion), Musa Zwane (bass), Siphiwe Mgidi (drums). They describe themselves as a band that "caters a spiritual ancestral sound that tells of stories of who we are as the global community without race, color or nation."

The crew says their music is part of a spiritual journey into self-discovery which connects their listeners to their ancestors, reminding them of who they are and where they are from as human beings.


In an interview with on SABC's Afternoon Express show in 2019, right before performing their latest single "Bayede," Buyisiwe broke down the meaning of the band's name:

"Sun Xa simply means 'the sun is out,' so we thought it's such a long name saying 'The Sun is Out Experiment,' so why not use the "xa"? You know, we must always remember that we are people of the south and South Africa is our home. We must always remember where we come from, hence we always tap back and say our music is ancestral."

"Bayede" runs for close to nine minutes and showcases most of what the band sell themselves as—spiritual vocals punctuated by ululations live in a psychedelic atmosphere of electric guitars and heavy percussion. The band's lyrics are in IsiZulu, SeSotho and English.

The term "bayede" is normally used to address a king or queen in some South African languages. "The single is the fourth song on the album, and it is an acknowledgement of who we are as kings and queens in a form of a greeting," say the band in a press release. "We say 'bayede' to each and every individual to acknowledge their power and ability. And also, to see each individual as a royal highness in their own right and or sense. Life would be a lot simpler and easier if we were able to see and praise one's greatness, no matter where they come from."

Sun Xa Experiment recently headlined the festivals Endless Daze and Smoking Dragon.

"As Sun-Xa Experiment we paint our bodies with paint every time we go on stage," says the band in an email to OkayAfrica. "It symbolizes a mark of a ritual that's about to take place on stage, the painting symbolizes our past lifetimes (ancestors) and the journey that has been walked before us. The painting patterns are different in all performances based on the energy on that day."

If you love music that evokes feeling and emotion in parts of you that you might have forgotten as the continent continues to get westernized, you will definitely love the music of Sun Xa Experiment.

Sun Xa Experiment has evolved, and in the last few years, they stumbled upon their current sound. "Initially we sounded like an avant-garde jazz band," Buyisiwe told the Mail & Guardian in an interview last year. "But then we lost a keyboardist and a saxophonist, which is when I ended up playing the vuvuzela."

The band will release an album in March. The project will be a follow-up to their 2017 two-track EP Ingoma. The album will be called Umculo Umuthi, which means "music is medicine."

Listen to "Bayede," the six-track album's first single, below:

Follow Sun Xa Experiment on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Interview
Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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A personal reflection on one of South Africa's most influential hip-hop albums, 'Dankie San' by PRO.