Blk Sonshine: Memories of an Era

by | Dec 6, 2009 | Sound | 10 comments

Johannesburg By Night

It was a normal night somewhere in 1999/2000. Like many, I had come to Joburg in search of dreams and a taste of the big city’s bright lights. I had been invited to a party in Morningside by a young lady I was interested in getting to know better – I was single and allowed. At the same time, my cousin wanted me to go through to a spot called 206 in Orange Grove for a live performance by a group he did not know. In reality, he probably just wanted me to go through with him because I had the car, but he claimed it was because he had met a member of the group and it would be a fun evening out. I still do not know why I went with him and came up with an excuse to liaise with aforementioned young lady at another time.

206 was the one space in the city that explored the less-than-mainstream aspects of music and popular culture, from drum & bass to hip hop, at a time when it was hard to hear such sounds in the more fashionable spots. Later I would run monthly poetry sessions there because it had that energy, that spirit. The bouncer knew everyone who came there and you always felt like you belonged. There were different spaces with the main part having a small stage, bar and dim lighting.

We arrived before the show was to start. There were small tables with candles dotted around the room. We briefly met with the group, blk sonshine, which was made up of two brothers on guitars, Malawian-American Masauko Chipembere and South African Neo Muyanga. That was the beginning of a journey through the streets of Joburg, following them from venue to venue, submerging myself in their amazing creativity. Regularly returning to 206, while they performed, an amazing artist and friend (who I ashamedly haven’t seen in years) Nico Phooko would paint on stage, inspired by the music.
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It was an amazing time to be in the city. The first time I found a space in the city where I could share my poetry, it was because of blk sonshine. Neo invited me to a spot, Jungle Connection, in Doornfontein and there was poetry. On that stage, I would later see poets, emcees, comedians, etc who would later make a significant mark on society; people like Tumi (from the Tumi and the Volume), Lebo Mashile, David Kau, MXO, Slikour and Sugasmaxx (from Skwatta Kamp), etc.

When they finally recorded their first album, the self-titled blk sonshine, I was fortunate enough to get one of the first copies … signed. I’m still harbouring some serious issues because my cousin actually lost my CD. I heard the music hundreds of times and yet, to this day, I am still in love with their creativity. In time, Masauko went back to the US and Neo moved to Cape Town. A couple of years ago, they came together to do some shows. I couldn’t go. I had reluctantly come to accept that I probably wasn’t going to see them together again but, fortunately, I was wrong.

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I recently got a call from Sony Music to come by and pick up a CD (I am blessed to get that call every now & then). Blk sonshine have released a new CD Good Life. Recorded some years ago, the music is as timeless as ever and both took me back and laid the foundation for the future.

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As if that wasn’t enough, last night, I was taken into the past and shown the future. They performed – with Tony Paco on percussion & drums and Concord Nkabinde on bass – to a room of loving fans at the Baseline in Newtown and it was as if they had never left. There are moments in time when there are no words that can adequately capture the emotion, the experience …. last night, for me, was one such night. It felt like a reunion and it was awesome to re-connect with Neo and Masauko.

If you haven’t had the chance to listen to what blk sonshine creates, do so. Good Life is on high rotation and I am still searching for the first album, which was lost so many years ago. I am hoping that, with this new release, someone will think to re-issue the first one.

10 Comments

  1. Onthebuzz

    Nice article on blk sonshine!

    Reminds me abit of Lucky Dube (R.I.P) with their messages. Worth a check, I reckon.. Bless

  2. Kojo Baffoe

    Thanks. Masa and Neo are also wonderful human beings who live their words and music. I think this is what makes their art resonate even more than most.

  3. Sammy Phatlane

    Kinda takes me back to Lebo Mashile’s documentary that used to play on SABC 1. Great poets find inspiration even from the most smallest steps taken thru life. Guess blk sonshine is a must check

  4. Tumi

    document these moments brother. great.

  5. biz-ark-human

    Niceness! Remember sampling their ‘Born in a taxi’ trk during my beatmaking days, ha ha! Bra Neo still holding it down with the Pan Afrikan Space Station down in CT. Respect for this…

  6. Entle Pule

    In music and art we find meaning to our existence- Entle Pule

    My brother, I have grown to appreciate your work, and reading your NOTE of timeless history with the BLK Sonshine, I question, why you not part of them now?

  7. tebogo

    u remind of days tht r left behind enclosed in a trunk of my mind somewhere. thanks 2 u i wouldn’t let myself 2 gather dust any longer, i guess it’s time again 2 take out my very skeletons out of the closet & put flesh and be me again since i nearly about living

  8. Rochelle

    They sound so good! And I hope you never let that cousin borrow another CD! 🙂

  9. nomsa hoohlo

    where can i get the album?

  10. Kojo Baffoe

    The Blk Sonshine album should be in any Musica, etc. If not, please let me know and I will find out for you.

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About Kojo Baffoe

Of Ghanaian/German heritage, raised in Lesotho and currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Kojo is the proverbial slashie, the professional ‘jack of all trades.’ He is an entrepreneur, writer, facilitator, content architect, former men’s magazine editor and speaker. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (1994) with majors in Economics, Marketing and Business Administration from the former the University of Natal (Durban), now University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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