Freshlyground South African Band

WHO IS FRESHLYGROUND?

Freshlyground formed in early 2002, and is made up of seven talented and diverse musicians from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Fronted by the diminutive but dynamic Zolani Mahola, the band exudes a live performance energy that has been the bedrock of their success. The experienced rhythm section of Peter Cohen (drums) & Josh Hawks (bass) is complimented by guitarist Julio Sigauque, keyboardist Seredeal Scheepers, Simon Attwell (flute, mbira, sax and harmonica) and violinist Kyla Rose Smith. Although hailing from diverse backgrounds, between them the band’s members weave a musical magic that is highly infectious and undeniably groovy.

  • Zolani Mahola – lead vocals
  • Simon Attwell – flute, saxophone and harmonica
  • Peter Cohen – drums
  • Kyla-Rose Smith – violin, backing vocals
  • Julio “Gugs” Sigauque – lead guitar (steel-string acoustic guitar)
  • Josh Hawks – bass, backing vocals
  • Seredeal “Shaggy” Scheepers – keyboard, percussion, backing vocals

BRIEF HISTORY

In 2003 Freshlyground launched their debut album, Jika Jika under their own Freeground Records label, the immediate success of which firmly cemented the band as one of South Africa’s most successful young acts.

Freshlyground released their second studio album Nomvula in July 2004. Nomvula was recorded and produced by JB Arthur and Sibusiso Victor Masondo. The album sparked interest from Sony BMG Africa, who signed the band and released Nomvula in September that year. Radio quickly picked up on the single ‘Doo Be Doo’ and the catchy song went on to become a crossover favorite amongst a diverse spread of stations and their listeners. ‘Doo Be Doo’ was the most played song in South Africa in 2005. The major success of ‘Doo Be Doo’ was followed by the singles ‘I’d Like’, ‘Zithande’, ‘Things Have Changed’ and the title track of the album ‘Nomvula’.

The album sold 300 000 units in South Africa alone – earning it multi-platinum status. The success and broad appeal of the band was celebrated in November 2006 when Freshlyground won the MTV Europe Award in the category Best African Act. The award placed the band firmly on the international music map and earned them further recognition on home soil as significant South African cultural exports.

The success of Nomvula was followed by that of Ma Cheri – Freshlyground’s third studio album, released in September 2007. The album’s release was followed by a major South African tour attended by over 25 000 people across four cities. The tour was produced by Freshlyground and supported by Volkswagen South Africa. The tour successfully raised the performance and production standards of local touring, putting the band on par with international acts in terms of production scale and value. Ma Cheri sold multi platinum in South Africa and the single Pot Belly became another major crossover success.

In 2009 Freshlyground did four sold out tours in Europe. They also toured for the first time in China, the United States of America and Canada, making the band one of a handful of South African acts to have a successful and sustainable career both internationally and at home.

In 2010 Freshlyground released the gold selling album ‘Radio Africa.’ The band’s forth studio album broadcast their unique sound, a sound that has turned the seven-piece into one of South Africa’s most treasured acts, to the rest of the continent and the world. While putting the finishing touches to ‘Radio Africa’ in New York in February of 2010 the band was selected to co-perform in the Official Song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Entitled ‘ Waka Waka- This Time For Africa” the song was featured on “Listen Up: The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Album™,” and is a collaboration with Colombian superstar, Shakira.

Freshlyground performed Waka Waka live at the FIFA Kickoff Concert and at the World Cup closing ceremony in Johannesburg which was broadcast to over a billion people world wide. To date ‘Waka Waka’ has sold well over 3 million singles and reached number #1 on several charts worldwide. The song is the most successful anthem in the history of the FIFA World Cup and has introduced Freshlyground and their music to a host of new fans across the globe.

The band went back into studio in the winter of 2012 in the small Karoo town of Prince Albert. They worked with award winning studio engineer Dave Langemann and Grammy award winning producer Steve Berlin to record their fifth studio album, Take Me To The Dance.

The band built a makeshift studio in a community theatre in the middle of the quiet Karoo town, and created a space where, says Peter Cohen “We pushed ourselves on many levels, and as a result the record is sonically far less predictable… our collaboration with DJ Headroom on the title track Take Me To The Dance displays the band’s flexibility within genres. Freshlyground have always allowed themselves wide latitude in terms of style-hopping, and I think this album achieves that more successfully than all the others.”

In 2013 the band released Take me To The Dance in the United States on the Word of Mouth label, this was followed by a US tour which included a show at the prestigious New York venue, The Apollo. The release of the album was immediately followed by a rave review on the popular NPR show, All Things Considered and topped the US ITunes World Music chart.

On a recent visit to South Africa in June 2013 during a speech at the University of Cape Town, President Barack Obama cited Freshlyground as an example of what South Africa has given the world.

RELEASES

FRESHLYGROUND, released by African Cream Records, 2013

TAKE ME TO THE DANCE,  released by Freeground Records, 2012

GREATEST HITS, released by Freeground Records, 2011

RADIO AFRICA, released by Freeground Records / Sony Music Entertainment, 2010

LIVE DVD, released by Freeground Records / Sony BMG, 2008

JIKA JIKA, remastered and remixed, released by Freeground Records and distributed by Sony BMG, 2008

MA CHERI, released by Freeground Records / Sony BMG, 2007

NOMVULA, released by Freeground Records / Sony BMG, 2004

JIKA JIKA, released by Freeground Records, 2003

AWARDS

SAMA AWARD  Best Group, Take Me To The Dance, May 2013

SHARED INTEREST,  USA  Next Generation Award, March 2013

SAMA AWARD – Best Adult Contemporary English Album for Radio Africa, May 2011

SAMA AWARD – Best Engineer for Radio Africa, May 2011

SAMA AWARD – Album of the Year, Ma Cheri, May 2008

SAMA AWARD – Best Duo/Group, Ma Cheri, May 2008

SAMA AWARD – Best Adult Contemporary English Album, Ma Cheri, May 2008

SAMA AWARD – Best Engineer, Ma Cheri, May 2008

CHANNEL O AWARD – Best African Band, 2008

O MUSIC VIDEO AWARDS NIGERIA – African Video of the Year for Pot Belly, April 2008

GOOD HOPE FM SA – Best performing Group, September 2008

METRO FM AWARD- Best Group, November 2007

METRO FM AWARD- Best Album, November 2007

METRO FM AWARD- Best African Pop Album, November 2007

MTV EUROPE AWARD – Best African Act, November 2006

METRO FM AWARD- Best African Pop Album, November 2005

INTERNATIONAL NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

*Listed chronologically

Apollo Theatre. Africa Now Festival, New York City, USA, March 2013

Montreal Jazz Festival. Montreal, Canada, July 2011

International Quebec Summer Festival. Quebec, Canada, July 2011

Vancouver Folk Festival. Vancouver, Canada, July 2011

Festival of Arts and Ideas. New Haven, CT, USA, June 2011

Central Park SummerStage. New York City, USA, June 2011

Luanda Jazz Festival. Luanda, Angola, July 2010

Paleo Festival. Nyon, Switzerland, July 2010

Festival Hammemet. Tunis, Tunisia, July 2010

Rio Loco Festival. Toulouse, France, June 2010

Africa Festival. Wurzburg, Germany, May 2010

World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2010

Jazz Music Festival, Shanghai, The Republic of China, October 2009

Radio City Music Hall, New York City, USA, July 2009

Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, Brooklyn, NY, USA, July 2009

Festival Nuits D’ Afrique, Montreal, Canada, July 2009

Hague Jazz Festival, The Netherlands, May 2009

Rome Auditorium, Rome, Italy, November 2008

AVO Sessions, Basel, Switzerland, November 2008

Barbican Centre, London, United Kingdom, November 2008

Theatre Royal Carre, The Netherlands, September 2008

Toast Festival, Kensington, United Kingdom, September 2008

Arrezzowave Festival, Livorno, Italy, July 2008

Zeltival, Karlsruhe, Germany, July 2008

Kultursummer Festival, Oldenburg, Germany, July 2008

Salisbury Festival, United Kingdom, June 2008

Roots in Ooster Park, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, June 2008

Lugano Festival De Jazz, Mendrisio, Switzerland, June 2008

Mawazine Festival, Rabat, Morocco, May 2008

Spring Festival, Cairo, Egypt, May 2008

Harare International Festival, Harare, Zimbabwe, May 2008

Lagos International Jazz Festival, Lagos, Nigeria, April 2008

Maputo International Jazz Festival, Maputo, Mozambique, April 2008

Jazz Café, London, United Kingdom, July 2006

FIFA World Cup Handover Ceremony, Berlin, Germany, June 2006

Branderburger Tor FIFA 04 event, Berlin, Germany, June 2006

Cannes Film Festival, NFVF, Cannes, France, May 2006

Aichi Expo, Nagoya, Japan, March 2005

Pukkelpop Festival, Belgium, August, 2005 Berlin, Germany 2004

SOUTH AFRICAN NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

*Listed chronologically

Nelson Mandela Foundation Gala. Johannesburg, South Africa July 2010

FIFA World Cup Final Closing Ceremony. Johannesburg, South Africa July 2010

FIFA Kickoff Concert. Johannesburg, South Africa June 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010 Final Draw, Cape Town, December 2009

HIV /AIDS World Awareness Conference, Durban, April 2009

Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Cape Town, April 2009

Chris Burger Charity Fundraising Concert, Cape Town, August 2008

46664 Nelson Mandela HIV Fund, Johannesburg, December 2007

Desmond Tutu HIV-Foundation Benefit Concert, with Vusi Mahlasela, September 2000

and July 2006 with Sipho Hotstix  August 2008,

Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, July 2005

10 Years of Democracy Closing Celebration, Athlone Stadium, Cape Town, February 2005

Reconciliation day Festival, Cape Town, December 2004

Spier Arts Summer Season, collaboration with Oliver Mtukudzi and Mahube, Stellenbosch, December 2004

Olympic Torch Ceremony, Grand Parade, Cape Town, June 2004

Celebration of 10 years of Democracy, Green Market Square, Cape Town, February 2004

PRESS COMMENTARY

USA Afropop Worldwide, April 2013

Freshlyground have staked out unique territory on the South African music landscape. A multi-racial pop band that filters traditional and local musical ideas through savvy, often quirky, international pop and rock production, the band is a true reflection of contemporary South Africa, a place of inherent contradictions….[Take Me To The Dance] marks a decade of hard work for the band, and reflects an urge to try new formulas, lest they become, as lead vocalist Zolani Mahola put it, “dinosaurs.”

The result is impressive diversity, 14 tracks amounting to a collage of muscular club grooves and indie rock ballads with flavors of Zulu guitar pop, Xhosa, English, and Afrikaans vocals, and even a dash of Congolese guitar slipped into the midst of an otherwise middle-of-the-road pop song, “Not Too Late For Love.” Without a doubt, the group’s strongest asset is Mahola’s stylish and charismatic vocal. Hers is a voice made for pop. It can coo and growl, croon and belt, while always maintaining an effortless, liquid quality.

– Banning Eyre

USA NPR All Things Considered, April 10 2013

Freshlyground has been one of the most talked about bands out of post-apartheid South Africa. One reason is the voice of lead singer Zolani Mahola. Mahola is a powerhouse; she and six other black and white musicians from around southern Africa make up the group. They came together in 2002 to forge a new sound, repackaging folk roots and classic African pop with a slick veneer of international pop production.

The lacing of South African Zulu guitar picking in their indie-rock ballad “Everything” is classic Freshlyground, interweaving disparate strands into a newly coherent whole. But with their latest album, Take Me to the Dance, the band shook up their collective composing approach and worked with an American producer. The result is a new muscularity in their sound — a thickening of the band’s trademark musical stew.

Freshlyground is not for everyone. Fans of rawer global sounds might find them too polished and preened, and their blend of confessional love songs, hopeful social commentary and party-hardy dance tracks can make for some jarring transitions. But that’s exactly why they reflect South African aspirations so well. This is the sound of striving, from people who don’t want to lose their past but at the same time want desperately to move ahead and find their place in the global mainstream — or, perhaps more aptly, on the global dance floor.

– Banning Eyre

The Times, December 7 2012

Freshlyground’s fifth album, Take Me to the Dance, is a 14-track journey through a gorgeous medley of sounds. Opener Chain Gang is a beauty,sounding like a bluegrass-tinged Busi Mhlongo jam. In fact, there seems to be an mbaqanga feel to many of the guitar riffs on the album.….. Musically,there are many elements present on the album — from mbaqanga to kwaito and even a tinge of psychedelic rock —but they all gel together rather wonderfully.Take Me to the Dance is the best thing Freshlyground has done.Finally, it doesn’t feel like the band is trying too hard with that whole Rainbow Nation thing.

-Pearl Boshomane

Cape Times, November 8 2012

Take Me To The Dance is an album filled with refreshing diversity and disarming originality.

– Jason Curtis

Juice Magazine, May 2010

South Africa’s sweethearts return with 11 brand-new Afrotastic songs. The slick, world-class sheen (courtesy of New York producer Fabrice Dupont) does not detract from the band’s familiar Afropop flavour. In fact, it’s a lot more Afro than pop. “Moto” is a brilliant opening track, introducing Zolani’s delightfully heart-warming voice, which snakes its way through a kaleidoscopic array of marimbas, kalimbas, mbiras, pan pipes and more. “Chicken to Change” is “dedicated” to Robert Mugabe and opens with a sound byte of his re-inauguration speech. In an ironic twist, the song’s weighty lyrics have been set to twinkling marimbas, fluttering drums and grooving rhythms, making it impossible to stop listening to it over and over again. If you’re looking for a “Doo Bee Doo”-style ditty, you won’t find it here – this album’s grittier and more grown-up than its award-winning, platinum-selling predecessors.

– Nikki Benatar

The Star, May 2010

“Boldly going where our local pop bands don’t dare, into southern Africa. Freshlyground weren’t kidding when they said were stepping away from pop with this, their fourth album. When compared to Jika Jika, it’s not raw at all in the production sense, but it does have a more organic and live sound than Ma’Cheri. Cohesive for all that it brings together many different African influences, it’s still the Cape Town-based band, but with less of the repetitive bubblegum sound our radio stations love. Instead we get an album that fuses African instruments and rhythms to more Western aural traditions without it becoming an overly produced “cross over” album.”

– Theresa Owen

Channel 24, May 2010

“Fusion”…  it became a dirty word for a reason. Music may be a universal language, but that doesn’t mean everyone speaks it the same way. You can’t just toss anything together and have it work out great.  Good intentions have their place, but the many collaborations wind up like the musical equivalent of bacon samoosas: annoying oingo-boingo  cheese that is only bearable live, and even then only if you’re drunk and trying to prove some kind of political point. The difficulties of fusion make Radio Africa even more of an achievement.

– Jean Barker

Travelpod, July 2010

Marianne said to me “I defy anyone who doesn’t want to move to this music”. Well, within 10 minutes, the place was rockin’. The band do a very lively mix of African, pop, soul, folk and global dance music…… It’s hard to imagine that such a small person can have such a strong personality, with such vibrant energy and spirit. She was cocky, but in a nice way and she had a fire and passion that would light up the whole of Africa. Her energy was contageous, as she bopped around the stage, commanding attention.”

– Martina Mc Auley

Time Magazine, April 2007

“Freshlyground’s music may sound like it was manufactured by Benetton mixing not only race and gender but also nationality, musical style, language, age and even height… However the mix was created it’s one for which the world is developing a taste. Freshlyground’s ambivalence about their diversity hasn’t stopped others from seizing on them as the personification of the Rainbow Nation”

– Alex Perry

The Washington Post, December 2005

“Zanele Mazibuko has always hated the violin. And the flute? Forget it. For a child growing up in the black township of Soweto, she said, those instruments represented a distant world of white privilege, beyond a seemingly uncrossable racial divide.

But last week, something began to change her mind. It was a live performance by Freshlyground, one of South Africa’s hottest bands, which features both a violin and a flute — not to mention five white members out of seven. The music, a fusion of rock, jazz and Afro-pop, sounded “black,” Mazibuko said, delighted and amazed. “The music they play, it just goes together”. “

Cape Argus, October 2007

“Freshlyground is probably going to become SA’s most important band in the 21st century. I realised this when I watched them at Loftus Versfeld supporting Robbie Williams. Sixty thousand people sang along to their hits, with passion. And they’re the biggest crossover group since Mandoza …”

Y Magazine, Aug/Sep 2006

“Their music is easy to like, covering a feel-good spectrum of distinctly South African pop, led by Zolani’s exuberant vocals, in English and Xhosa, and driven by an experienced and well-honed band. Mothers pushing prams in shaded parks will like it; sweaty people in stampvol taxis will like it, drunk students too. And it’s also great when you are alone. It’s bright and happy no matter whether your feet are plodding the grim streets of London or your head is stuck in a gnarly roll of post-breakup-chicken wire. Sure, you’ll like it too.”

– Toast Coetzer

Cape Etc, April 2004

 “Freshlyground is an almost textbook example of how well consensus can work.  From their choice of band name, which was decided upon after having fans vote, from a variety of options, to their music which the band members describe as organically grown through a system of teamwork that distributes contributions fairly evenly between the seven members, they exemplify the joys of the new South Africa.  Add to this their prestigious gig at the most recent opening of Parliament and their multiracial, multinational members and one can’t help but think that this is the future of South African music.  Judging by the cast amounts of critical and popular acclaim they have been generating it seems they are destined for greatness… I predict that soon Freshlyground will be as ubiquitous as the minibus taxi and just as popular.  For now, make sure you catch them live while they are still playing small venues because this band is set to soar.”

– Justin Zehmke

Mail and Guardian, April 2004

 “Unlike so many Cape Town bands, Freshlyground have managed to win more than a mere cult following…It’s about the creative sparks that fly when cultures co-exist and collide…It’s precisely this unpretentious blend of Mahola’s classy multi-lingual vocals soars, Hawke’s buoyant bass jams,Turest-Swartz’s pan african textures, and Simon Attwell and Smith’s shimmering mbira-violin shades that make for an effervescent Afro-pop recipe that transcends any merely “eclectic” fusion.”

– Miles Keylock