Hailing from Soweto in South Africa, 4 piece Urban Village were slowly founded in 2013 by bandleader Lerato Lichaba when one by one rest of the group of Tubatsi Mpho Moloi, Xolani “Cush” Mtshali and Simangaliso “Smash” Dlamini, came together all inspired by an innate love for music and with a shared rhythm that flows through their bones. Their unique sound comes from a blend of folk music, Zulu rock, Xhosa funk, mbaqanga and maskandi layered with electric and funky acoustic melodies.
Often referred to as one of the hardest working bands in South Africa, they’ve played over 100 shows over the past two years. Their joyous debut single ‘Sakhisizwe’ – whose title translates as ‘To Build A Nation’ – blends contagious Zulu guitar riffs with resonant lyrics of hope sung both in Zulu and in English. It’s the first track lifted from Urban Village’s debut album – due this year.
With feet firmly in the traditions of South African music and a keen eye on the future, Urban Village know how to navigate their country’s vast repository of rhythms, all the better to explore new dimensions. Without further ado, let’s Meet the Band.
The MALESTROM: Tell us about the road you took into music?
Urban Village: It began when I was 13 years old growing up in Soweto with lots of neighbours playing guitar around me. I had a passion for piano but I guess influence got the most of me, also considering my parents being involved in church choral music got the best of me going into music.
TM: What are your prime musical ambitions?
UV: My prime musical ambitions are preserving the old oral African music knowledge and capturing a timeline to the future digital sounds. Also, to build a creative community in alternative arts.
TM: What would you be doing right now if you hadn’t gotten a career in music?
UV: I would be an artist focusing on fine arts.
TM: Where do you call home?
UV: Home is Soweto.
TM: What’s your least favourite instrument?
UV: It has to be the piano.
TM: Ok, you’re hosting a meal for three guests – then can be famous, friends, dead,
alive, whatever – who are they?
UV: If I was hosting a meal for three friends it would be for Madala Kunene, Xolani Mtshali and Mamodise Mailula.
TM: Your stranded on an island, you only have one album. Which is it?
UV: I would have Nyabhingi Chants by Rasta Elders.
TM: Who’s the one person you call in a crisis?
UV: The only person I call in a crisis is Mamodise Mailula.
TM: What’s your musical ‘guilty pleasure’?
UV: My musical guilty pleasure is when the audience experiences the outer body experience through my music
TM: Who’s the best cook in the group and what’s their signature dish?
UV: The best cook in the band is Xolani. Signature dish unknown yet!
If you could collaborate with any musician alive or dead who would it be?
UV: It would be the Makhonatsohle Jazz Band.
TM: What fruit or vegetable do you associate with most?
UV: Potato and Avocado.
TM: What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
UV: The best gig I’ve ever been to is His and Hers Jams.
TM: Tell us about the worst gig you’ve played…
UV: It has to be one of the Puisano events where the sound guy never cared about engineering the band on stage and just focused on chatting with his peers throughout the event.
TM: How much does the environment around you affect your music?
UV: The environment around me affects my music in a huge way in a sense of inspiration of how local people get by on a daily basis, despite political issues or social struggles.
TM: What’s your best/worst touring experience?
UV: I personally haven’t had a bad touring experience
TM: What was the last book you read?
UV: I haven’t picked up a book since I left high school.
TM: Where would your dream gig (performance) take place?
UV: My dream gig would take place in Soweto any public location.
TM: Tell us about your new music…
UV: Our new music carries on the dialog of our forefathers in reminding us of the importance of our culture and heritage to secure our identity.
TM: What are the main musical influences that you draw from?
UV: The main musical influences I draw from are the music of Malombo, Madala Kunene and West African music
TM: Can you give us one piece of wisdom you’ve learned from your time together as
UV: No man is an island.
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