Swing City is made up of Graeme Watkins, Lonehill Estate’s Nathan Ro and Loyiso Bala, who came together after a tongue-incheek comment between friends to start a swing group.
The remark sat with them for a while, brewing, before daring to admit – years later – the idea wasn’t as whimsical as they’d initially imagined.
In fact, the outfit would provide a creative outlet for the musicians to explore their love of jazz, swing and blues music, beyond the constraints of their existing careers and mainstream bands, adding their own modern day twist to the genre.
Oddly, they got booked for their first show before they even had the opportunity to rehearse, because the idea itself seemed so appealing.
But Watkins says: “It’s sort of like minimum effort, maximum efficiency. We love being on stage, we love the genre, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. When we perform together, it’s effortless. We break out into song and then into laughter immediately afterwards. And I think that’s what the audience really enjoy about Swing City and what makes Swing City such a successful unit.
“We adapt to any situation and we don’t have any preconceived jokes. It just kind of rolls off the tongue.”
Now, two years after their inception, the group have amassed a loyal following and are currently in the studio recording their debut full-length album, Well Swung.
They’ve selected 14 swing and jazz songs from their extensive repertoire, including standards and originals, which vary from Old MacDonald to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, reworked into the Swing genre.
“We’ll also be covering some of our original material, such as Techno Band from Lonehill Estate, Music Affair from Graeme Watkins Project and Blow Your Mind from Loyiso Bala,” says Watkins.
Bala adds: “It’s kind of like new things done in an old way – and then some old things done in a new way.”
Each artist – all from different musical backgrounds and cultures – brings his own dynamic feel to the album. Recording under the guidance of producer Adam Howard at Howard Audio, the album comprises of a seven-piece live jazz band, as well as guest artists ChianoSky, Shoowop Shop and L’loyd Cele.
“It’s not like a slow, boring jazz album,” Ro explains. “It’s funky. We got some jungle book happening on there”.