Freshly Ground: Not a Coffee, Just a Great South African Band

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take-me-to-the-danceFreshly Ground is now the most popular band in South Africa, even though they’re not that well known here in the U.S.. They did perform at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa a couple of years ago, but their star has yet to ascend most other places.  They have a new tour of the U.S. in March, so that may change things somewhat.

The new album, “Take Me to the Dance”,  is set for release in the U.S. and Canada on the Wommusic label 3/12/13, and you can buy it on iTunes, Amazon, and via the Wommusic website.

The band formed in 2002, and is made up of seven musicians from South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.  The lead singer is a diminutive but exuberant Zolani Mahola.  Their first album, Jika Jika, came out the following year.  Nomvula, released in 2004, went multiplatinum in South Africa.   The group also did four sold-out tours of Europe in 2009.   They collaborated with Colombian superstar Shakira for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and we seen by millions around the world on television.

They’re an interracial pop band–which I say because they represent the new face of South African music.  It wasn’t that way when we at KCRW, under my Music Director tenure, started to feature African music back in 1980.  We had to get our records from the Kohinoor Store in Johannesburg,  where the motto was “We Sell Records Like Cornflakes”.  South Africans based in LA came to the station to share their music libraries.  A nice gal named Di Brukin brought in some amazing stuff.  We featured a band called Johnny and Sipho, the first interracial SA band, made up of a zulu music expert named Johnny Clegg and a gardener named Sipho Mchunu:

This is a clip from the clandestine underground BBC 1970s documentary Rhythm of Resistance:  a must see if you’ve never seen it:

Roger Steffens, who did the popular Reggae Beat show on KCRW 1979-1989, was sending Paul Simon cassette tapes of the South African bands we were playing:  the Boyoyo Boys, the Cockerel Boys, and more significantly, a male zulu choir named Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  The end result, a few years later, was Simon’s magnificant Graceland album.  I also had the chance to interview Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba on several occasions.

I once interviewed Rian Malan, son of David Malan, one of apartheid’s architects, when his book My Traitor’s Heart came out in the late 1980’s.  He told me of his love for black south african music.  Recently he’s back in the news because of the Oscar Pistorius debacle.

Freshly Ground has shown us how far we are away from those troubled times.  The band will tour America in March:

Here’s the official video of the title song of their new cd, Take Me to the Dance:

and some background (Steve Berlin of Los Lobos got involved with the production)

Here is their infectiously joyful song “Doo Be Doo”

and I wanted to put up a final FG classic, the pan-african song “nomvula”, but it’s not available outside of SA!

more info on their website, including US tour dates:  the tour is called The Freshly Ground 10 Year Birthday Love No Hate Tour: