If Biko had a dream, what do you think it would have been?
iPhupho L’ka Biko would certainly be a strong contender for this, with their music: a form of free jazz fused with African spiritual and classical music.
The band was founded by bassist Nhlanhla Ngqaqu and is currently based in Johannesburg.
What I found particularly interesting about them is how they describe themselves. Their biography in the festival's official programme reads: “The band fuses traditional African music, gospel, jazz and classical music, critically seeking a spiritual awakening of the people.
"It's compositions draw influence and makes compositional references. iPhupho (a dream) is a reference to a conception of God, the giver of life and the fulfiller of dreams in light of Afrikan aspirations.”
A mouthful, but it seems to be a fitting explanation of what they seek to do when they get on stage. They played in the Slipstream, a venue hosted in the back of a sports bar, slightly dark with the smoke of cigarettes filling the air.
The tables were reminiscent of those found in taverns, covered in plastic tablecloths bearing the labelling of beer brands. The setting seemed fitting for a trip, and their music certainly does that.
When vocalist Miseka Gaga opens her mouth to sing, a collection of notes arranged in a melody forcefully mash the free jazz to the seemingly rigid and uppity classical music.
It's music that may seem uncomfortable for the first few minutes, but it merges into something more as the song progresses. It tells a story.
The song that stood out for me is Queen Sandra’s Hymn, a melancholic tribute to deceased American human rights activist Sandra Bland, who died in 2015 under suspicious circumstances in a Texas jail. This hymn seems to mourn the death of the then 28-year-old, and the divide between African Americans and the police in the US, and taunts you to reflect.
Their music also tells stories about where they are from, as is the case in the light-hearted song Braam Streets, and informs you what's important to them, as with Umhlaba Wethu.
Are these young people political? Quite. After all, everything is political.
Through iPhupho L’ka Biko we see that the future of music is now, it's young and it's courageous. They’re a pleasure to experience.
iPhupho L’ka Biko consists of Miseka Gaqa, Muhammad Dawjee, Nhlanhla Ngqaqu, Godfrey Mntambo, Tshiamo Nkoane, Nkululeko Khumalo and Lebohang Lebakeng
They will be live at the Makhanda National Arts Festival tomorrow and on Saturday.
Visit nationalartsfestival.co.za for times or alternatively follow the band on Facebook to find out when they will be performing in your city.