Freshly Ground enter the new year with a homage to black girls and a new album.
Their upcoming seventh album title is Can’t Stop, and when you think of how long the band has been around, their album title almost serves as a reminder of how far they have come — and that they are far from calling it quits.
“It’s our 16th year in music and we’ve had changes in the band, with members no longer playing instruments,” said Zolani Mahola, the lead singer of Freshly Ground.
“So, even though we haven’t been at the forefront and that (only) some of our albums were successful, we’re still doing what we love and that is what the album represents”, Mahola says as she takes a sip of her tea.
We are seated on the contemporary-style couches of Koi restaurant in Rosebank, with the resounding noise of construction vehicles acting as the background music for the interview.
However, despite the noise, Mahola had no issues with it and got into conversation immediately, introducing the right topics of conversation as ice breakers.
The title of Freshly Ground’s new album can also symbolise the changes in the band, with the addition of a guitarist from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the absence of one of their former members, violinist Kyla-Rose Smith.
The last time the public saw Freshly Ground on their screens or online, was after the release of their single, Banana Republic, in 2017, which also had a video released on the same day.
“We didn’t mean to release Banana Republic in 2017; we wanted to release it around this time, but when we saw what was going on in the country, we decided to release the single with the aim of giving everyone something positive to think about,” Mahola explained, as she folded her legs in the Indian style. “The release of Banana Republic was to give the acknowledgement that, as South Africans, we do have freedom of speech to enable us to react to how our country is being led,” she added.
While the reason behind Banana Republic was more social than political, the release of the band’s newest single, Blck Grls, has a more personal link to the band or, more specifically, to the lead singer,
Mahola said: “Well, we omitted the vowels to the song title simply to make the title look different.
“The phrase ‘black girls’ looks so normal; by omitting the vowels, its creates a sense of uniqueness and grabs the attention of the listener”, she explained.
“The song has a link to me because of my childhood and how, as a girl, there were limitations as to what music I could listen to, because it was wrong to listen to rock music.
“I also was told what I could wear and at a certain age, black girls were given chores and tasks.
“So, Blck Grls is an anthem that says you are allowed to be what you want, listen to whatever music that you want, dress how you want and just enjoy being a black girl,” Mahola said.
She went on to explain that the message in the song would be carried through, into their music video, which was released on Friday.
“It is a beautiful presentation and we didn’t actually want to be in the video, since the song itself is quite self-explanatory and in-your-face.
“Instead, we focus the video on three remarkable black girls and I almost didn’t make an appearance in the video, but I am glad that I did.”
Without a doubt, the music video for Blck Grls is a beautiful piece that current and future generations can be proud to watch and remember, as a song that is an anthem for the black female society.
During the build-up to their seventh album, Freshly Ground had collaborated with jazz music stalwarts Mango Groove on their song, Another Country. Mahola had also been featured on Afrikaans singer Karen Zoid’s Unplugged Sessions, singing the covers of Bad Romance, by Lady Gaga, and Suzanne, by Leonard Cohen.
For Mahola, she saw both collaborations as an integration of the music and culture of South Africa, as well as holding out possible solo opportunities in the future.
Freshly Ground’s latest single and album culminates their return from dormancy to the music industry.
Leading with anthems such as Banana Republic and Blck Grls, Freshly Ground are entering 2018 with a positive bang, with songs that are aimed at connecting to audiences, spreading self-love and continuing to grow their status as one of South Africa’s powerhouse bands.
Judging from their latest album and singles, Freshly Ground are far from ending their journey.