I have found heaven on earth. It came enclosed in a plastic casing and wrapped with a thin layer of plastic. It has four corners but its contents encircle my heart: it is The Soil’s self-titled debut album.
A friend introduced me to this three member a cappella group last year, back when three was four and the group only had underground releases and various performances under their belt. The group consists of brothers Ntsika and Phindo Ngxana, and the soulful Buhle Mda. They name God as a fourth Member. Samkelo Mdolomba, who can be heard throughout the album, left to pursue other music ventures.
After seeing their performance on Late Night with Kgomotso (SABC 2), I searched for their music wherever I could find it: youtube, friends of friends, wherever! I kept my ear to the ground, hoping to hear the sound these Standard Bank OVATION Award winners would make.
The cover of The Soil’s album
The Pioneers of kasi-soul
The Soil logo
The 11 track album features favourites their fans know from their mixtapes and performances, including “Joy”, the popular “Sunday” and the soul-stirring traditional Setswana/Sotho hymn, “Sedi Laka”. It was a little disappointing to me that they didn’t include more tracks (11 is way too short!) and more new material. Despite this and the fact that they didn’t include my favourite, “I Found Love”, the album’s been on repeat since I bought it! A nice surprise was uTumi’s (yes, from the Volume) cameo appearance at the end of “Baninzi”. Tumi Molekane has also featured them in a performance on SABC 1’s Live, and word has it that he plans to shoot a music video for a song he recently recorded with them. The trio takes on a playful theme in the township ditty children usually sing, “Bhomba”, about a rabbit and a jackal’s love proposal to it. “Umubi ufana nengulube eb’sweni” (you are ugly, your face looks like a pig’s face) one animal sings to the other. Other themes include family, loneliness, and of course, love.
One can hear influences of jazz, soul, afro-jazz and gospel coming through in their music. They have fused different genres and voice techniques to create a genre they refer to as “kasi soul”.
After hearing “Impossible” for the first time, which was one of the songs they performed at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, a friend said, “Wow! These guys are too talented. I just wanna go and write music now!” Their music does that. Like Lauryn Hill sang all those years ago, “Music is supposed to inspire.” Their performances of that song, “Impossible”, are particularly impressive as the members use their voices to create the sound violins make. It’s crazy good. (See video here)
“…decomposing the keys of pianos and guitars, we are reaping what the tapping of feet have sown. As we flow out from the blows of trumpets and bounce from the strums of cellos, moving through sounds in which music was found – rooted in the belly, of The Soil.” – Portia Munama, “Intro” from The Soil’s self-titled debut album