As a build-up to the release of their much-anticipated debut album, scheduled for release in 2021, the band dropped their Ep, Ubaba, along with a visually orgasmic music video. They chat to Blacklight about how Covid-19 impacted them creatively, their latest Ep, and their vision as a band.
By: Blacklight writer
Main image: Justice Mukheli
Urban Village is one of the most revered live bands from Southern Africa. Over the years, they have become the most booked live act, and have graced the stages of many festivals, including Oppikoppi, Basha Uhuru, Grahamstown Arts Festival and Afro-Punk Johannesburg, to name a few.
The Afro Alternative band’s eclectic sound makes it impossible to pigeon-hole them and speaks to a diverse audience. They effortlessly blend folk music, choral, mbaqanga, soul and jazz, coupled with atmospheric lyrics about the beauty and pain of day-to-day life. Urban Village’s music reveals us to ourselves; they motivate, entertain, encourage and stir-up our consciousness.
The band is comprised of Tubatsi Mpho Moloi (Lead Vocals, Flute, Mbira and Guitar), Lerato Ntsane Lichiba (Guitar & Backing Vocals), Simangaliso Dlamini (Bass) and Xolani Mtshali (Drums & Backing Vocals). According to them, all the members add a unique flavour and texture to the music and aesthetics of the band.
Blacklight: You are renowned for being one of the most cutting-edge live acts in SA. With live events being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, in what way did you have to restructure yourselves in order to stay active and connected, creatively?
Urban Village: As a band we started to look at alternative ways to reach out to our audience, in addition to a few live streamed concerts, we became more active on social media and set up a membership program where we have direct communication with the members.
We also had to delay and rework strategies that were already in place for our debut album Udondolo, now due out in January, 2021, because of the pandemic.
Creatively, each member continued to write and perfect their art and took time to try out new things.
BL: Did you make any discoveries about yourselves that inspired you in some way artistically, during this period?
UV: Yes, we were inspired by how we, as a society, managed to adapt to this phase and having to remain resilient and positive in all that we had to do. We were also inspired by people who never stopped trying to create and share their art in places you least expected to find, consistently so.
BL: The core foundation of your music is storytelling and documenting black life – the struggle and the beauty. What would you say are your intentions as a band, especially in today’s social and musical climate?
UV: Mainly, our intention is to actively spark open conversations about uncomfortable societal issues that are preventing us from moving forward as a human race. The music is written deliberately so in such a way that it’s meant to inspire, heal and unite people.
BL: Congratulations on your new Ep, ‘Ubaba’, what is the real story behind this EP and the title?
UV: Thank you. We named it Ubaba because it’s the last single and is accompanied by our debut music video, prior to the full album release. Basically, this 4-Track-EP sums up all singles we have released to date, it includes Sakhisizwe, Izivunguvungu, Izivunguvungu [Dj Chloe Remix], as well as Ubaba. This song celebrates present father figures rather than addressing issues about absent ones. This is a reflection of how the narrative has changed over time, hence the celebration of the fathers in our society who really go the extra mile to care, to love and protect their families.
BL: This Ep is your first offering under the French label, NØ FØRMAT! which is home to other iconic African artists. What appealed to you about this partnership, especially as artists who have been quite individualistic in your approach?
UV: More than anything, what appealed to us is that the type of music we make is not so different from what the boutique music label has to offer and is about. It came as a blessing to be signed under such a label that represents a lot of the artists we look up to. The label [also] did not try to change our music to fit their catalogue, instead, they allowed us the freedom to present the music as is.
BL: Being part of a collective and maintaining the artistic vision of the band, along with individual visions of each member can sometimes be quite a struggle. How do you balance the objective of the collective with individual intentions?
UV: We balance our objectives by communicating openly as a unit; we are not only about the growth of the band but as individuals as well. We are supportive of one another’s journeys.
BL: What is the bigger vision for the collective?
UV: The bigger vision is to actually establish a creative village where we can create a space for art collaborations or fuse different types of arts that one could have never thought of.
BL: How do you measure success as a band?
UV: It’s really hard to measure success over time, but in short, I’d say: it’s what we have managed to achieve through hard work, from being independent to now being managed.
BL: What do you hope people who have experienced your art describe/tell other people who have yet to experience your work?
UV: A lot of the times they invite their friends and families to come experience the music as they find it hard to describe the feeling they get when we are performing for them. Most say it sounds like something that they have heard before, but with a twist. Our music is from the past, present, and future.
For more on Urban Village, go to: urbanvillage.live