I remember being awe-struck by a picture I saw in on the Sunday papers somewhere around 2005. The members looked militant in their shades and flowing locks. There was a sense of urgency in the female lead’s look which stuck with me: black shades, black beret, all-black everything! They reminded me of Peter Tosh and the Dashiki Poets at once, with a hint of the Black Panthers Party to smother the masses. They were Kwani Experience, a band which had been bubbling in Johannesburg’s underground music circuit for a hot minute before being picked upon by a record label, releasing two albums, and somewhat disbanding.
Somewhat, because Kwani’s gone through many phases.
While some members have gone on to pursue other interests, there’s still a core connection which bleeds through different their various musical pursuits, be it on vocalist/percussionst Bafana Nhlapho’s two-step cross-continental wails, or multi-instrumentalist Mahlatse Riba’s explorations into the deeper elements of roots sound as one half of the house music project Sai & Ribatone.
Kwelagobe Sekele, Kwani’s emcee who now performs as the P.O. Box Project, has recently released his Maru EP which he refers to as a “digital Kwani sound” in a Mail & Guardian feature tracing the trajectory of the black band over the past decade.
Maru is the culmination of over six years’ worth of stop-and-start recordings, all the while sharpening that very concept. The initial sessions were with Ribatone, but P.O.’s focus shifted onto other projects.
Work continued in 2012, the same year he shot this video for “Moni” which was c0-directed with Justin McGee. Maru is available to stream on bandcamp. I got in touch and asked him to explain the album title’s meaning. This is what he had to say:
“The silver lining. Because clouds are ALWAYS there, even when you don’t notice them, even when they come and go. That’s my presence in this industry, during this 3-year Kwani Experience hiatus. The title is also an indirect homage to Bessie Head who wrote a book by the same title. This is my little 7 chapter book.
*You can purchase Maru on iTunes