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Freshlyground: The Interview

2008-04-28 06:46
Watch the video interview:
Interview (Fresh broadband)

Some critics reckon your new album, Ma’Cheri is aimed at the lucrative overseas market – is this true?
Aron (keyboards): We’ve had many conversations - especially recording Ma’Cheri - about whether we’re making this music for ourselves, for people, are we trying to sell it? What’s the story? Are we trying to make it for radio to play, to fit into format? So that is an ongoing struggle. I’m sure many musicians face that. You know, what are you doing this for? Are you doing this to make money - or to express something inside of you?
Simon (mbira, flute etc.): After winning the MTV Europe Video Award there’s a perception that we’ve managed to achieve a good measure of success overseas. I think it’s a misconception. Our success is firmly rooted in South Africa. We certainly wrote this record for us. There was no intention that now we’re going to conquer the international market. We do manage to go overseas quite regularly and have been given great platforms over there. People are excited about the fact that as a SA entity we are showcasing parts of SA that people are proud of. And I think that’s something we don’t want to dismiss, but it’s not something we want to wear on our shoulders. It’s a reality.
Peter (drums): you never really know what’s going to sell anyway, so how do you make music that’s going to sell?
Kyla (violin): We don’t have a grand plan as such -
Zolani (vocals): Which is sometimes a strength and sometimes a weakness…..

Well, your new single “Pot Belly” is already a massive hit. Do you still get surprised when you hear your songs on radio?
Josh (bass): No, we get surprised when it’s not on radio! It’s more like: ‘why aren’t they playing it?’ chuckles.
Seven members in the band means seven egos, do you still believe in a democratic approach to writing songs or is creative conflict part of the fun?
Josh: I think we work pretty much from the gut. Some of the songs are written individually, but mostly we just get in a room and play music together, we flesh out an idea then Zo starts singing and writing lyrics. We’re not as clever as people think we are. We don’t kind of sit there and plot how we’re going to get on the radio or write a hit. It’s pretty organic and natural. We get in a room, play music together and write a song. It’s like that. We don’t think too much about it.

One reviewer described Ma’Cheri as “a melting pot of melting pot of retro Sophiatown jives, maskandi-pop cocktails, landscaped Afro-pop prayers, African reggae-rockers and inner city jazzy-house joints”. How important is it for you guys to reflect a ‘Rainbow Nation’ sound?
Simon: We don’t get that tag much lately.
Kyla: We don’t try and put any specific kind of style into the music. It’s just something that develops during the workshop process. We’ve been together five years so we’re kind of getting into our individual roles in the band more and more, solidifying our place. Maybe the album is an example of that. We’re getting more comfortable with where we are in the band and how we’re work within the music.
Josh: For me, it’s a bit of a journey. You’ve got to listen to the songs, it builds, it all happens and I kind of like that about the album. I don’t know whether some people want it to happen instantly, “right now”, but they might need a few listens. So I think it’s “a few listens” kind of record.

Aron: the main thing that we wanted to capture with this album that we thought that Nomvula maybe didn’t was our energy and the energy we have playing live together. I feel that translates quite well on this album.
Zolani: Also, most of the songs we’ve been writing throughout the years since we released Nomvula….we’ve been playing these songs to audiences…they’re ‘played in’. They’re songs that people have responded to at gigs and shows. This is stuff we’ve been playing since 2003….
Josh: 2003? Where do you get that from?
Zolani: isn’t that true?
Josh: we weren’t together in 2003!
Zolani: 2005, 2004? (chuckles!)
Peter (smiling): that’s an indication of how mixed up we are. People think we’re astute at covering different angles or styles of music. We just go to work like everyone else. We’re stumbling through what we do. We do our best. There’s no real, “this is Ma’Cheri and this is what it’s about and how we did it”. We just did it and that’s what it is.

Pot-bellied Afro-pop sensations Freshlyground's brand new CD has been hailed as a melting pot of retro Sophiatown jives, maskandi-pop cocktails, landscaped Afro-pop prayers and inner city jazzy-house joints. We caught up with the Proudly South African seven recently to find out more about Ma'Cheri.

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