Clement Gama10/29/2020

WITHOUT a doubt the unknown musician has always had the open mic night at some odd pub, live events which are lenient on requests for abrupt performances and also radio stations which still take music from unheard-of talent.

But there’s definitely never been a better time for the gifted and undiscovered than the one we’re in right now. I bet my worn out tyres that at least five in seven people reading this, have in the last five years discovered artists they’ve never heard of on YouTube via any of these channels; COLORS, NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts and Sofar Sounds. Combined, the aforementioned trio has over 10 million subscribers on YouTube.

South Africa is progressively growing in this space with a number of live platforms coming through the net. Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions is one of them. “We wanted to give a different perspective to how people listen to music. In an unplugged set and an unplugged location. We saw it as a platform to also showcase undiscovered talent,” Music Director, Khanyisile Dlamini tells Tha Bravado.

Totally Unplugged. Photo by Township Boy Movement
Totally Unplugged. Photo by Township Boy Movement

Founded in August, Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions has already hosted four performances. They unplug an unknown kat and share their music with world on their YouTube channel, Township Boy Movement. “The concept of sessions is to create [an] artistic hub for musicians. We have a resident band that seeks to accommodate different artists on different episodes. Each episode focuses on a specific artist, so we get to experience the artist rationale of their crafts. We select our artist based on the level of artistic abilities that will blend with the expectations of the show,” adds Xolani Nkosi, who is the Executive Director.

The band with Backdraft on the second episode of the sessions. Photo by Township Boy Movement
The band with Backdraft on the second episode of the sessions. Photo by Township Boy Movement

The band is led by the seasoned Thulani Twala, with Mfundo playing keys, Tshepo on strings and Siya on drums.

Their second episode featured rap singer Bakdraft, seemingly in someone’s yard on a lazy Sunday afternoon as the sun was setting. “We use different locations for different artist. Depending on the style and personality of the artists. We will be exploring a lot of locations,” says Dlamini, who’s affectionately known as the first lady. She is also a songstress, who performed on the first episode.

Last month on Heritage day they opted on having a session on the street corner. “Our set up is not determined by the factors that are surrounding [on] the day that we shoot. Shooting on the streets was not determined by what day we were shooting in, but maybe our heritage stems from the streets and using the street on Heritage day will reinforce where we come from as artists. We are for the streets,” says Nkosi, who is a photographer and videographer that has been working for a number of years under his Township Boy Movement company.

Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions is a brainchild of these young Tembisans, but they have ambitions of seeing these sessions miles away from the Ekurhuleni Township. “Our plan is to unplug all the cities of Mzansi. Working with talent and undiscovered talent across the country. Hopefully incorporate brands as well to part take in this great initiative,” Nkosi says.


“Being slept on, is when not a lot of people have heard your material but once they do, they’ll admit that you’re dope. Being underrated on the other hand, is when your material is out there and everybody sees you, but no one considers you dope enough to be in the top five or whatever,” said a friend of mine breaking down the difference between the two.

I picked her brain on this matter after watching Saba’s Tiny Desk Concert NPR. With a band made up of individuals who played an integral part in the creation of his second studio album, Care For Me which came out on April 5th this year; the band included producers, DaeDaePIVOT and Daoud, with Saba’s father, Chandler on the backing vocals.

Special music projects have been dropping like manna this year, more so in Hip Hop. Saba’s album is one of them and every time I listen to it I can’t fight the thought of how much slept on the Chicago rapper is. On NPR he performs songs from Care For Me, but short as it is, the performance draws you to appreciate the album even more. Its production, musicality and most importantly, its narrative. Like German online music platform COLORS SHOW, you always think you know which is your favourite NPR episode until they release something as potent, yet different but similar because the performers feed off the same vibrations.

I was subjected to nit-picking certain tracks in Saba’s previous work. I can literally listen to Care For Me from beginning to end- it’s cohesive and lets you into the artist’s life before he became a globally recognisable rapper, till now. It sticks like original rezla.

In an interview with Sway, he said he also believes this is his best work (but which artist doesn’t think that about their art?) “…This is the first time where I was like hundred percent confident that I’m making something undeniable and in the last five days, the results seem to be in my favour,” he said. He was on Sway’s Universe five days after Care For Me was released and charted #45 on Billboard.

Chicago is blessed with young talented individuals who have touched the world with their art. From Chance The Rapper, Noname, Mick Jenkins, Ravyn Lanae, Monte Booker and a sea of other gifted creative souls. But Saba’s name isn’t as familiar to many as his peers’-the same peers who feature him on their projects.

With the 10 track Care For Me, he reached a much bigger audience by being emotionally vulnerable-Saba’s rap skills have never been questionable, his musicality was just in deficient of assertiveness. Hence it’s uncomfortable juxtaposing him to the likes of  Joey BadA$$ and GoldLink.

So Saba was fairly slept on, but thanks to the brilliance of his last album people have woken up to Tahj Malik Chandler’s music.  With more eyes on him now, I’m curious to see what will follow Care For Me because only then, do I think we’ll see where the game will rate him. But that NPR performance raised his stock.

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