With no Volume to his name, it seemed almost impossible to imagine South Africa-based self-proclaimed poet/emcee Tumi Molekane as a solo artist. He had released two albums before forming a band: A dream led to this and Tao of Tumi, the latter which, if memory serves right, had an accompanying anthology. Yet it’s the years between 2002 and 2012 that Tumi’s profile rose to admirable heights. As Tumi of Tumi and the Volume, he recorded music and toured extensively with Paulo Chibanga (drums), Dave Bergman (bass) and Tiago Correia-Paulo (guitars). After ten years, the majority of which were spent on the road in Europe, Tumi put a lid on a part of his life which had not only come to define him, but had also loomed large over the other projects released outside of the quartet – notably his own A dream led to this (2007) and Whole worlds (2011).
A mere six months after the break-up, Tumi had assembled a new backing band and begun performing songs from his soon-to-be-released album Rob the Church. A while afterwards, he appeared in front of a full house at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg to present the same set of songs, some of which had gained traction among audiences through their accessibility on-line. It was hard to not draw parallels to a night almost twelve years ago when, backed by The Volume, and with guests including trumpeter Marcus Wyatt and vocalist Pebbles, Tumi and his Volume recorded their seminal Live @ the Bassline album. Tiago talks about those years here.
The night at the Market Theatre felt new; a promise of something else; something untested and daunting and seemingly-insurmountable.
It’s when telling stories that Tumi is most in his element. Those are the songs which stick; songs like Yvonne or People of the light; or Bophelo ba me and Villages and Malls; songs which deal with fully-formed human beings and lend nuance to their lives, like the housewife living her life vicariously through television soapie characters on Moving picture frames, or the BBEE high-flyer gunning for a better future of the cost on Mr Gogetit.
Feel so good is Tumi in sexy mode. Ziyon, known better as the vocalist from house music collective Liquid Deep, proviceds the musical and vocal accompaninent. “Tumi and Ziyon had a mutual admiration for each other’s talents and wanted to lend them to a sexy ballad about courtship and philandering,” reads the blurb on soundcloud.
Molekane represents a class of rappers not afraid to takes risks and chances; he’ll feature on a song with L-Tido, then go head-to-head with a battle emcee of the calibre of Ness Lee and easily hold his own ground. In short, he’s the emcee’s emcee, and this collaboration is further proof of his range.
* I did the images too.