Sofar Sounds

Clement Gama10/29/2020
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6min23208

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.

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7min1340

THE two things I’ve grown weary of, are load-shedding and social distancing, occurring simultaneously. But it wasn’t so bad chilling alone in the dark, listening to Adelle Nqeto’s Need Someone from the phone.

“That is the way I’m going to recommend listening to this one from now on (minus the load shedding)!” is Adelle’s response to the impromptu-tranquil set-up.

Need Someone is a song Adelle released just a week ago. I streamed it as an attempt to counterattack the awkward silence in the room, and couldn’t help but think of how timely the song is. You would swear the lyrics were knitted together by thoughts of people all around the world, who have been feeling lonely in the last eight months.

You’re building on your own now,

Is it all you ever wished for?

Are you happy you’re with yourself?

Independence is a strain,

No one’s pain but your own to shoulder -she sings on the song, over simple guitar chords.

The calming three-minute ditty was actually written about five years ago. “I only performed it live once, for Sofar Sounds JHB, and then never played it again. People have requested it since then, but it never felt necessary to get back to the song until recently,” Adelle tells me. “It’s definitely more about how I felt at the time I wrote the song. I think it makes sense now too, considering all of the loneliness and alienation that some people have experienced these last few months. I wrote the song at a time when I was considering my own vulnerability, my relationships and inter-dependence. This year has definitely brought some of those thoughts back up.”

The artist who hails from Pretoria is currently based in Berlin, Germany and hasn’t been home in almost a year now.

The pandemic has affected people in various unimaginable ways which have also come with complex reactions. Not every artist or creative would be the perfect feature on those cute Balcony Stories XL video clips. Adelle has also felt the severity of the times.

“…the reality is that this has been a heavy time, and my body’s response has not been to create,” Adelle opens up.

“SO much happened during lockdown- this whole year really. I think we all know that. Personally, I’ve been in protective/survival mode and creating has been difficult. I am not one of the people proposing that people be productive and come out with an incredible body of work after this time. I think if that’s how you deal with a pandemic, then good for you. But it’s been the opposite for me, and that is ok. I have spent a lot of this time sleeping/trying to fall sleep, reading, crying, writing, chatting to people I love, trying to pay my bills – while also trying not to feel guilty for not meeting the deadlines I set for myself.”

SIMPLY ADELLE. Photo by Susan van Tonder
SIMPLY ADELLE. Photo by Susan van Tonder

“I’m slowly starting to feel the shock of everything starting to settle now- at least emotionally, and I’m beginning to find a new rhythm of life, and the words to articulate what I’ve been feeling in this time. I’m almost certain that this will influence whatever work I release next, but even if it doesn’t, the words and melodies written in this time will not have been a waste.”

It certainly will not be for nought, when you see how a song written about half a decade ago has unquestionable relevance today. “I was terrified about this release- it’s SO simple and bare that I wondered whether it was necessary to even release it. I wasn’t sure how it would land, but the feedback has been great.”

Need Someone is a stand-alone single, but Adelle confirmed she is working on new releases.

Listen to Need Someone HERE


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