FAKA’s gqom love letter
FAKA is introducing a genre most at home on Durban’s dance floors to a new transgressive set
FAKA have always come across as artists for whom sound defines a large part of their practice. Formed by friends Desire Marea and Fela Gucci, FAKA first released beatless audio meditations with self-shot footage emphasising location, styling and the interactions between them, as well as improvised movement.
The naked human voice formed the basis of the audio work, taking cues and influences from South African genre staples as shorthand for their narratives.
Although being grounded in styles of music with which the country is familiar might make it seem as though their work should sit comf o r t a b l y wi t h i n i t s b o u n d a r i e s , FAKA’s approach ensures that this isn’t the case.
They aim to use all the tools at their disposal to interrogate the status quo, while working towards the liberation of queer black bodies and identities.
From a Distance, the duo’s 2015 video piece, used some of the visual language of mass-copy DVD compilations and hymnal music to create what they described as a “gqom-gospel lamentation for Dick”.
Although the details around the edges have varied, the centre of their mission has held since then, becoming sharper in execution and in its ability to provoke.
Their sophomore EP, Amaqhawe, was announced in October, accompanied by cover artwork that used a sleek visual language to introduce their new work: Desire and Fela topless in sun hats, dress gloves and made-up.
The image’s mere presence on people’s timelines encouraged a wide range of reactions, many of which proved the need for their focus on queer lamentation. The image was possibly the least transgressive media release for the EP, even though it did stoke the fires of some with regressive sensibilities.
With Amaqhawe, the duo broaden their reach and relevance. Their first excellent single, and its video, used a familiar danceability, but still managed to exhibit a daring singularity and originality.
All these artefacts, and especially the first single, had a new incisiveness to them that signalled that FAKA’s work would be as poignant as ever, employing careful collaboration to elevate the end product.
Uyang’khumbula was produced by Vukani Chamane and Mnotho Chamane, who produced as hot a gqom song as they could, as opposed to providing a gqom-inspired backdrop. In a way, the song’s lyrics, vocalisations and styling allow to reach as far towards contemporary South Africa’s boundaries as Uyang’khumbula),
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Cover version: Desire Marea and Fela Gucci on the cover of FAKA’s latest EP Amaqhawe. Photo: Nick Widmer