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BLK JKS defy description. With a wrecking crew rhythm section, debonair vocals, and guitar concoction of one part shred and two parts soul, BLK JKS shoot an African music sensibility through the tenets of rock. On one hand it is easy to politicize BLK JKS; as seen on the cover of Fader, here is a band that is instantly young, black and fly even as they reclaim styles that have been stolen, watered down, and regurgitated for generations. And yet to get caught up in anything but their sound is to sell this phenomenon short, because as musicians–as artists–BLK JKS simply cook.
The band’s fresh, forward rhythm, layered harmony and elliptical guitar vernacular reveal the urban Zulu blues of mbaqanga that is the center of BLK JKS songwriting. Teaching themselves guitar on the same block where they both grew up, childhood friends Linda and Mpumi formed the band in 2000, and early BLK JKS shows garnered attention for their stacks of guitar drone and head-nodding beats. After the band’s current lineup took shape with the addition of bassist Molefi and drummer Tshepang, both of Soweto, they embarked on a heavy touring schedule throughout South Africa that earned them a national following.
It’s been too long since anyone was able to bring this much soul and heartblood to progressive rock, a medium that has been left cold and dry by a misguided focus on technical show-offery. But by entangling the music they love — township blues, fringe jazz and renegade dub — into the DNA of prog, BLK JKS have provocatively pulled afro-futurism into a new century.
There are currently no tour dates for BLK JKS