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In a beautiful written piece for the New York Times, Trevor Noah paints a picture of his childhood with his mother

Freshlyground interview - Freshlyground - filtering the flavours

2006-11-03 12:35

24com: You all come from pretty diverse musical backgrounds...
SIMON (flute):
basically, both Kyla and I were classically trained, we both played in orchestras and chamber groups...
KYLA (violin): Speak for yourself! I'll tell them about me...
SIMON (mbira):
It was only with Freshly Ground, well from my part, that I started moving away from classical. Aron's background is jazz, he worked at the Jazz Workshop for 10 years. Zolani sang in a group very briefly. It was a punk outfit so she got to sing and express herself and get that out of her system. And Josh, well he's played in many bands and been around forever, he's a bit of a stalwart. So it is a pretty mixed background....

24com: How did you make the transition from a classical background to Freshly Ground?
KYLA (violin):
Well, for me it wasn't really going straight from classical into Freshly Ground. I was trained classically and had been playing classical for about 16 years - then half way through the 16 years I decided that I didn't really want to make classical music and I started playing Irish songs and tried to jam in bands. It's been a bit of a process. I'm from Joburg - I play in another band (The Volume), which is my first band that I started. I've done a lot of work that isn't classical. It's a totally different experience. In the classical situation you're just having to be there and reading the music - where as the band is a whole complex process, you're writing songs... you've got to agree on stuff. How do you all manage to agree?
SIMON (harmonica):
We're totally democratic! Sounds ideal - does that work for you guys?
KYLA (violin):
Not really!
SIMON (flute): Like democracy itself it's very slow and painful but it's the only way we can actually work together at this stage. We've been lucky because we've had a fairly easy time writing songs. We've all got our own creative ideas and input. And as much as possible we try give everyone the opportunity to express themselves.

24com: Do you consciously try write "feel good", uplifting songs?
SIMON (sax):
I don't think it's deliberate from our side. I think it had to do with the kind of musical ideas we started out with were quiet gentle and had a feel good tone just by accident. I think what we wanted to do is write some good pumping pop music that reflects what South Africa is about in an optimistic sense. What's the one thing you all have in common?
JUSTIN (electric guitar): We all wanna be big in Japan!
KYLA (violin): We love music. Do you think your Jika Jika's "African" sound is export-friendly?
KYLA (violin): Like we said, we want to be big in Japan!
JUSTIN (acoustic guitar): We're looking at going to America sooner rather than later. We had a great response from international tourists who follow us and email us regularly from America and from Europe. So we've definitely got international appeal. Something we'd like to do is work in South Africa until we think we're at an international standard performance wise. Do you still have to balance the "day job"?
SIMON (harmonica):
Aron and I have thrown ourselves into it full time. Trying to manage it. And it's quite a fulltime job. It's not easy to pay the bills. But it's getting easy especially with the release of the CD. Not only because of sales but also because it's out there we are getting more response from people, more gigs coming in.
KYLA (violin): Someone once said that it takes all good bands at least 2 years before you start making money and most bands break up before they reach the two year point. So we're just gotta make an effort and push on and be miserable for a while. What are you listening to at the moment?
SIMON (flute):
...we don't really go home and sit and listen to music together (smiles)...

As a seven-piece ensemble blending vocals, guitars, bass, violin, keyboards, mbira, flute, sax, percussion and more you wouldn't be wrong thinking Freshly Ground's sound is "eclectic". Unsurprisingly, they've been called everything from "indigenous African folk" to "funk jazz, reggae and dance hall music". Well, at least we know where their name came from! We got the coffee-denominated cast together for a cup and asked them about diversity, democracy, day jobs and their landmark new album Jika J
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