Coming to America: South Africa’s Double HP Takes Over DC for Two-Week Residency with Bloombar’s
by Couch Sessions
If Hip Hop is the magic, then energy is its catalyst; and the audience that sat before South Africa’s own Jabba, Hip Hop Pantsula was dishing out endless energy and he served it right back, effortlessly.
The beautiful power that Hip Hop has over its listeners and makers is the same power that brings musicians from different continents together on one stage. It’s a power that precious few posses, but Jabba and his band all have it. It’s so powerfully obvious in the music that flows through their fingertips and inspires the instruments that, combined with Jabba’s gravelly tone, creates an unforgettable sound. What’s special about Jabba’s style of music, Motswako is that it’s a multi-layered mixture of Setswana, Zulu and English. According to Jabba, one of his trepidations for his first time performing in America was “The language barrier,” he said as he transitioned into his first song, “I wasn’t sure you all would understand everything I was trying to say.” His effort was delivered flawlessly and the end result is pure poetry.
The building that holds the moniker of Bloombar’s, sometimes called simply Bloom was resurrected on sacred ground in the Columbia Heights area in Washington, DC and established a century ago. Since 2008, it has been home to nightly, wholesome and inspiring musical events for those who desire to commune, exchange good vibes and experience genuine art in all of its forms. It’s a perfect fit for Jabba and his music.
When the name Jabba is mentioned, it’s hard to understand the breadth of his musical gifts and accomplishments; it’s merely a name. Seeing Jabba on stage in all his glory, backed by his band (Tebogo on bass, Sbudha on keyboards), such as he did on January 17th, is a whole different animal. In South Africa, where Jabba was born, raised and is the birthplace of his love for Hip Hop, Jabba is quickly becoming a legend. Initially inspired by American Hip Hop and with an African Grammy nomination, various music awards, reality television show appearances and faithful following, Jabba’s musical motivations are still sincerely sincere. What he stands for is unification amongst all people and waging a war against AIDS. Even with his acclaim that is now becoming transcontinental, his principals have not changed.
Along with the band that Jabba brought from SA, other local DC legends were invited onto the Bloombar’s stage to add to Jabba’s already tremendous sound. Opening up the show was Terrence Cunningham’s prolific voice and Stephen Johnson’s young and energetic drumming. Terrence energized the crowd with a few originals, but stopped the show with his version of Prince’s “How Come you Don’t Call Me Anymore.” Also the stage before Jabba did his main set was Asheru, Slim Cat 78, and Omar Retnuh, who comprise the Els.
When Jabba finally hit the stage, the crowd was already amped and ready for more. DC poetess Carolyn Malachi provided back-up vocals. Guitarist Gary Prince, Jabari Exum of Hueman Prophets all rounded out Jabba’s temporary background sound. Biscuit on drums, who also sat in with Jabba’s set, is currently drumming with the Els. Komplex of Fly Gypsy who’s video is currently on VH1 Soul and MTVU closed out the entire show with the help of Ndeliable’s guitarist and lead singer, David James.
To end things on a spiritual plain, Jabba ended his set with an enthusiastic and jazzy track entitled “Tswaka,” which means, “mix it up” in his native tongue. Jabba involved the crowd in a rousing version of a call and response wherein the audience joined Jabba in a chorus of “werang” which means “listen.” As the words “werang” floated through the walls of Bloom and across the lips of the people who crammed themselves into the small 100-year-old building, they did just that. Because it was what they came to do; listen.