By Jason Curtis
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years since Masauko Chipembere and Neo Muyanga first woke up the local music scene with their self-titled debut album that included the evergreen classic “Born In A Taxi”. Tonight the city bowl welcomes Blk Sonshine back with a launch for their highly anticipated and acutely overdue second album, Good Life, at The Assembly in Harrington Street.
Never ones to rush genius, the duo has not been sitting around idle between albums. With the initial Good Life sessions beginning as early as 2006 Muyanga is quick to point out that, “some things just should never be rushed.” With the period between producing album affectionately referred to as their ‘large pause’, the drought is now over with 12 new songs set to whet appetites everywhere.
After the overwhelming support for “Born In A Taxi” the biggest challenge for the two was to take the signature sound that the world fell in love with and build upon warm melodies and multipartite lyrics, all anchored in a well-informed African and Eastern reality. “Fame wasn’t working for my particular ego,” Chipembere recalls as to what happened to the group when their status changed from starting out in the underground and then, very quickly finding mainstream success. “That side of things was not my reality and yes, my ego ruled for a while.”
“That’s why this album was so important,” Muyanga adds. “We went back to our foundation, to the thing we built Blk Sonshine out of in order to assemble songs that were informed by that place. Good Life, both in title and sentiment, is thus a celebration of these two truly gifted musicians and their journey through song. The title track pulls their collective pasts into a current reality, all with beautiful familiarity. “I find it thick with metaphor,” Chipembere says of the Muyanga penned song. “It also has something childlike and innocent about it.”
With clear intent to not write for one particular audience, their now two-strong catalogues’ mission is to extract a feeling that has the listener reflective rather than overwhelmed by flippant pop distraction. “The power of words is informed by their ability to grow,” Chipembere agrees. “Good Life
is the logical extension that bridges and marries our poetic introspection in a way that we’re really proud of.”
With the same sentiment prevalent on both albums it’s Good Life that extends itself and welcomes special guest performances from Famora Dioubate, a balafon player best known for his recordings with Mory Kante, as well as Xhosa wordsmith and singer MXO and Tumi (of Tumi & The Volume fame). “MXO and Tumi added their magic to “Nkosi”,” Muyanga explains. “It’s a beautiful gospel song we wrote back in 2002 and is quite a departure from what people may have come to expect from us, which is great!”
With invites received and honoured right around the world between albums, Chipembere and Muyanga hooked up and recorded between New York, Los Angeles, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Shows booked in London and across Europe also allowed for many of the tracks that made the final cut for Good Life to be road-tested and played live before Blk Sonshine committed them to disc. “We randomly met up around the world at different times,” Chipembere recalls. What kept the haphazard nature of our process together was a strong thread of consciousness that’s always linked the music to the lyrics that we write.”
“With the world in an odd state of flux right now, people need hope,” he adds. “Good Life, both as a song and album is conduit through which we can channel positive musical energy.”
The Assembly launch includes special guests Toni Paco on drums and percussion with Sylvaine Baloubeta on bass, turning the duo into a four piece for the night. “We’re experimenting and collaborating all the time,” Muyanga says. “As I travel more and more I become more aware of our own great continent, it’s unique sounds and traditions. You’ll hear a lot of those on the new album, and on the night if you come down to the show.”
With the nine year pregnancy finally over, Blk Sonshine has given birth to a body of work that, as soon as it finds its feet, will take on a life of its own as “Born In A Taxi” did at the turn of the century. As any parent would, Blk Sonshine suffers moments of anguish at how their new arrival will integrate, but fans can rest assured that if they get down to Harrington Street they’ll hear and see Good Life take its place as one of the year’s finest late arrivals.
Tickets cost R60 and are available from The Assembly – Tel: (021) 465 7286. Doors open @ 9pm and the show commences at 9:30pm sharp.