FAKA’s gqom love letter

FAKA is in­tro­duc­ing a genre most at home on Dur­ban’s dance floors to a new trans­gres­sive set

Mail & Guardian - - Music - Mo­hato Lekena

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),

Inhliziyo) Isende Lendlela),

Cover ver­sion: De­sire Marea and Fela Gucci on the cover of FAKA’s lat­est EP Amaqhawe. Photo: Nick Wid­mer

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