Hailing from South Africa, the seven-piece band BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) has released their newest album Emakhosini, an EP featuring three tracks that capture the sound of ancestral, indigenous musical traditions while also including contemporary and controversial commentary on modern Africa.
Each of the three songs, though all very different, contain the essence of ‘Africangungungu,’ the name BCUC has given to their ‘afropsychedelic’ music. The tracks are best described as vibrant—each is buzzing with the distinct energy that BCUC brings to all of their music and performances. A mix of traditional indigenous South African music with funk, hip-hop, and punk-rock influences, BCUC’s music is nothing short of unique. As vocalist Kgomotso Mokone declared, “We bring fun and emo-indigenous Afro psychedelic fire from the hood.”
The album also tackles the issues of modern Africa head-on, including commentary on the harsh realities of uneducated workers. One song from a previous self-produced EP expressed views about a national idol and was so controversial that it was ultimately removed from the album. Despite this and other criticism regarding the group’s refusal to identify with a single social or political movement, BCUC sticks to their philosophy of creating “music for the people by the people with the people.” This philosophy is expressed in the video for the final track, “Nobody Knows (the Trouble I’ve Seen), filmed in Soweto.
Although Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness faces criticism for their stances, their commitment to representing the voiceless, speaking on important social and political issues, and exposing audiences to indigenous music is admirable. Emakhosini perfectly represents and lives up to the rebellious, lively spirit of the group.
- - - - - -
There may be stirring harmony vocals, but these dynamic, ‘afropsychedelic’ artists are anything but bland.
BCUC, AKA Bantu Continua
Uhuru Consciousness, are a young seven-piece band from Soweto who are
shaking up South African music. Vocals and sturdy harmony work have
always played a dominant role in township styles, but here the tradition
is updated and reworked with the powerful but subtle use of drums and
They play lengthy songs (the opener lasts nearly 20 minutes) that mix ancient and modern influences in a style that is distinctively South African, and includes soulful, elegant playing with passages that are as dramatic and frantically menacing as the best Congotronics bands in Kinshasa. BCUC have an impressive sense of dynamics, allowing songs to develop, fade away, change direction and then build to an often furious climax. Insistent, inventive bass guitar work holds it all together, as in Moya, which begins with a brooding riff and distant chanting, before the voices and percussion take over. Then there’s another switch, as echoes of what sound like ancient African war chants give way to cool, soulful vocals from Kgomotso Mokone, the one female member of the band, before the drums and chanting vocals return.
Elsewhere, what they call their “africangungungu” and “afropsychedelic”
music includes passages of sturdy township styles. There are stirring
harmony vocals on Insimbi that would provide a reminder of Ladysmith
Black Mambazo if it weren’t for the drums and bass riff. The final
track, Nobody Knows, brings further surprises. It starts off with a
reworking of Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, the gospel classic that
has been recorded by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Sam Cooke, but is
then transformed as chanting, rap and percussion take over. Those who
fear that South African music is becoming too bland, or dominated by US
influences, should take heart.
- - - - - -
After a year of intensive touring in Europe in 2017, the group from Soweto is back with a second album. Emakhosini is as stunning as their first album, Our Truth, released in 2016 to accolades in the French media. As on their first disc, the band offers two long pieces of funky tribal trance, Moya and Insimbi, that by their intensity evoke the Afro-beat of Fela even though they were not inspired by it. Because the music of Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (which can be translated as “Man on the move towards his freedom of conscience”) draws on the South African cultural roots of the group’s members — Zulu, Sotho, Shangaan — to invent a contemporary electric version of their musical traditions. On these ancestral rhythms and spiritual songs, BCUC builds a music tinged with soul, rap, and a driving by a punk energy.