Lo­cal band are wizards on UK mu­sic scene

Un­known in SA, group’s al­bum is Guardian’s eighth best of the year

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - WENDYL MARTIN

IT’S NOTH­ING short of in­sane – that a Cape Town band made num­ber eight on The Guardian news­pa­per’s list of 40 best al­bums of the year.

Gain­ing play­time on Bri­tish ra­dio is a mir­a­cle in it­self. But the sur­prise gets bet­ter, con­sid­er­ing the band is from South Africa, but hardly known here.

Last week, the Guardian de­scribed the band’s self-ti­tled al­bum John Wizards as “mag­i­cal”.

The news­pa­per’s mu­sic ed­i­tor, Time Jonze, wrote a fea­ture on them in Au­gust, doc­u­ment­ing how a Rwan­dan se­cu­rity guard met a South African ad­ver­tis­ing mu­sic writer, and the two cre­ated the fu­sion mu­sic that won them recog­ni­tion in the UK.

The band mem­bers are car­guard Em­manuel Nzaramba and ad jin­gle writer John Withers. They played live on tour in Bri­tain and Europe as part of a six-mem­ber band.

Last month they had an in­ter­view with Gilles Peter­son on BBC Ra­dio 6 Mu­sic.

They also have tour dates lined up again in Bri­tain and Europe next year – yet noth­ing back here at home.

Withers told Weekend Ar­gus this week: “It’s hard to say how it hap­pened. We got picked up by Bri­tish record la­bel Planet Mu af­ter we posted on SoundCloud, and we started work­ing on the al­bum last year.”

The two met in 2010 when Withers used to fre­quent Star­lings Cafe in Clare­mont, and Nzaramba guarded cars on Belvedere Road. He had ar­rived via Tan­za­nia to be a mu­si­cian, and the two started record­ing.

Al­though they lost touch later that year, their paths crossed again early last year when Withers bumped into Nzaramba on Loop Street.

The al­bum is not avail­able in South Africa, but its sound is very dance­able elec­tro reg­gae, with a lit­tle folk.

The song ti­tles and mu­sic are in­flu­enced by their South African ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly the trek of a Rwan­dan man to Cape Town, Withers says.

Song ti­tles in­clude Lusaka by Night, Lim­pop, Muizen­berg, Iy­ongwe, Durvs (as in Dur­ban) and Hogs­back.

The song ti­tles are not di­rectly re­ferred to in the songs, which fea­ture Nzaramba’s vo­cals in his na­tive tongues, jux­ta­posed with Withers’s South African English.

“UK au­di­ences don’t get the the song ti­tles. They are baf- fled,” Withers jokes, re­call­ing var­i­ous Bri­tish mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tions of “Muizen­berg”.

Withers had recorded in­stru­men­tals be­fore meet­ing Nzaramba, who later added his vo­cals. The “for­eign­ness” of all of this, Withers thinks, drew the at­ten­tion of the Bri­tish.

While on tour abroad last month, they played more shows than they’ve ever done in Cape Town. But Withers is set to do a DJ set of John Wizards mu­sic at the Nu World Eve party at Founders Gar­den near Artscape.

In Lon­don last month, Withers re­calls see­ing the al­bum on a shelf for the first time, at the Rough Trade shop.

“It was amaz­ing to see the CD in a record store.”

Planet Mu have no dis­trib­u­tor here, he says, adding: “Hope­fully that will be sorted out soon.”

Their al­bum is sit­ting at No 26 on the store’s al­bums of the year.

Of their Guardian Top 10 nod, he says: “I am sur­prised we made it. It is hard to digest. I am con­tin­u­ing with life as is. The Guardian is widely dis­trib­uted and for some it will be the first time hear­ing of us.”

John Wizards will re­turn to Bri­tain at the end of May for their sum­mer tour.

PIC­TURE: ADRIAN DE KOCK

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL AC­CLAIM: Ad jin­gle writer John Withers. Se­cu­rity guard Em­manuel Nxaramba joined him on the al­bum John Wizards which made it to No 8 on The Guardian’s list of 40 best al­bums of the year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.