Sunday, August 20, 2006


Freshlyground's Zolani Mahola - fresh...

I first heard about Freshlyground from Aron Turest-Swartz, one of the founders and keyboard player for the Cape's new supergroup, in 2004. They were still a small varsity group who were starting out, and he wanted me to take a listen to their demo.

I've known Aron all his life - his mother and my mother are childhood bosom buddies - I'll never forget the day I drove out to U.C.T. especially to pick up their demo up from him. It's not the drive there that stands-out, it was the instant love-affair I experienced on the way home!

Freshlyground's first album was called Jika Jika (FG001) and it was the freshest sounding "New South African" band I had had the pleasure of hearing.

I rushed home and forced Lenny to listen to it immediately - Zolani Mahola catching our attention straight away with Love Train, the beat bouncing along, the multi-lingual mix, the happiness and energy was everything that showed that a new younger generation of musicians were coming together and creating a new exiting sound.

Without going into all the details, we did end up managing them for about 6 weeks, but it was better for us to part with our desire for Peak to offer broader promotion, and their definite need for focused management.

I am pleased - they have just returned from their first highly successful tour of Europe, their music has been played on almost every radio show in the country, they're heard of television at sporting events, as jingles for advertisements, and I am sure they will still go a long way.

But I like to focus on what makes them so incredibly desirable, and that has to be the voice of Zolani Mahola. Sensual, sexy, sometimes playful, sometimes deeply mournful and sad, or energetic and stage-filling... This is the way I see Zolani. This short curvy lady captures her audiences soul from the moment she steps out there and take hold of the microphone. She makes love to her audience, and they lap it up with adoration.

One of my favourite tracks from Jika Jika is the original Nomvula, with an emotional Zolani only accompanied by Aron on keys. Nomvula, meaning "after the rain" in Xhosa, was the name of Zolani's mother, who passed away when she was very young, and the song is a tale of 3 young girls who had to be raised by a father whose had lost his life's love.

I found this video of their new version of Nomvula, from their latest album
Nomvula (INS007), which is pretty cool, but comes second to the original in terms of pulling heart-strings.

We don't promote Freshlyground any more, due to past differences, but I follow their progress with pleasure and pride - it's good seeing South African artists succeed - and I knew Aron when he was just a little snotkop!

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