Music

SXSW Preview: BLK JKS

by Winston "Stone" Ford

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BLK JKSLakeside

When many people think of Africa, the stereotypical images abound: tribal music, mud huts, grass skirts and conflict dominate our images of the continent. However, Africa has been leading the modern music revolution for a hot minute now, from the Afrobeat stylings of Fela Kuti, to the Ethiopian jazz beats of Mulatu Astatke, to the more recent African hip-hop movement.

The South African rock band BLK JKS (pronounced Black Jacks), is again shaking up what African music is supposed sound like. Ever since their 5 song EP dropped 2 years ago, the collective has been getting worldwide acclaim from the Internet and music industry execs alike. The sound–a collection of psychedelic rock combined with African rhythms and heavy percussion–is a maturation of what acts like Mandrill and Bad Brains used to do back in the day. The sound is strictly African, however, with their rock guitars peppered by Zulu chants and various ramblings about the environment, teenage pregnancy, and South African politics.

The group has become a fascination in their native country, attracting as one local paper calls it, “new South African hipsters who are looking for a soundtrack to an identity…”, and they’ve gotten cosigns by Pharrell and Dead Prez. They are currently on the first leg of an extensive US Tour, which is scheduled to conclude with multiple dates in Austin for South By Southwest, including the NPR Music showcase on Thursday, March 19th. (much thanks to Lady Glock for the track)