As Freshlyground matures, fresh vistas call

By Robyn Cohen Time of article published May 5, 2018

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Freshlyground was formed in 2002 - as an Afrofusion start-up by twenty-something students who wanted to make engaging music, and have fun. Sixteen years later, lead singer Zolani Mahola says they are still having fun - making music to foster a sense of connection and belonging in our nation.

The band has released a new album, Can’t Stop, and its single Blck Girls is receiving considerable radio play.

Blck Girls was inspired by Mahola’s “experience of growing up in Port Elizabeth and dealing with the notion that some chores were reserved ‘only for girls’ and that she was being urged to fit in a so-called construct of being a good, ‘normal’ black South African girl.

Mahola was 21 when she was invited to join Freshlyground. She is now 36 and the mother of two. In her third year of drama studies at UCT, she ditched varsity to go on the road with the band.

By 2003, veteran drummer 40-something Peter Cohen was on board. He had been a member of legendary outfits such as Bright Blue and Mango Groove, and was the plus-one oldie.

A decade-and-a-half later, Mahola, Cohen and Simon Attwell remain from the band’s first incarnation. They have since been joined by Julio Sigauque, Josh Hawks and Chris Bakalanga.

Freshlyground’s Peter Cohen, Zolani Mahola, Simon Attwell, Chris Bakalanga, Julio Sigauque and Josh Hawks. Picture: Jonx Pillemer

In an 2003 interview with Cohen, he quipped that he was thrilled to be playing with the Freshyground musos, who were young and hugely talented: “We will see where it goes,” he mused.

Fifteen years later and it has gone very well. The dynamic Freshlyground is on the brew - at boiling point. The band’s last studio album - Take Me to the Dance - was released in 2012, so Can’t Stop has been much anticipated by fans.

Last year, on Freedom Day 2017, the band gave us a taster with its single, Banana Republic, which is also on the Can’t Stop playlist. The album, produced by renowned Swedish record producer Tore Johansson, also features Mna Nalamagenge, a collaboration with the group, The Soil; artists Karen Zoid and Oliver Mtukudzi.

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