Four years after they’d criticised President Robert Mugabe with the song Too Chicken To Change, Freshly- ground was surprised to find out they were still not welcome in the country when they arrived to perform at the annual Harare International Festival of the Arts.
But the musicians have put that incident behind them and are excited to perform at the MTN Bushfire Festival in Swaziland at the end of May – one of their first major gigs this year.
“What happened in Zimbabwe was very unfortunate,” says violinist Kyla Rose Smith. “But we don’t regret writing the song. It’s important for us as musicians to be involved in political issues and speak our minds through music. The only thing we regret is disappointing the large fan base we have in Zimbabwe.”
The group, who are a firm favourite at the festival, will be sharing the stage with musicians from all over the world, including this year’s headliners Les Nubians, Australian band Black Jesus Experience, as well as Banda Kakana from Mozambique.
Other South African acts include The Parlotones, Shortstraw and The Soil.
“We’re always excited about performing in Swaziland,” says Smith. “It’s a great way for us to get to get in touch with other musicians and listen to different sounds. The vibe at the festival is really unique.”
On what makes Freshlyground a strong group, Smith says: “I think it’s got to do with the kind of people we are. We’re down to earth and don’t take fame too seriously. We’ve always been focused on the music. We disagree sometimes, but never wanted to break up.”
The group is currently preparing for their upcoming North American tour in June and will release two new singles when they return. Her advice to up and coming musicians? “Have many pots on the stove and stir them all regularly. The music industry is becoming increasingly difficult.
“We’re lucky the old model of music distribution still exists in South Africa, but this is changing rapidly. Soon it’s going to be even harder to sell music. Be involved in other things that can also bring income.”