Kulani Nkuna
2 minute read
24 May 2014
9:00 am

Africa on the rise

Kulani Nkuna

In the midst of the Africa Day concerts taking place in South Africa this weekend, it is worth noting that only five African countries observe the day as a public holiday.

IN SYNC. 8 Bars Short's varying musical influences makes for very interesting listening. Picture: Alaister Russell.

These are Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Pan-Africanist agenda in South Africa seems to have followed the dwindling fortunes of the Pan Africanist Congress in the recent elections. While wiser neighbours in the Southern African Development Community recognise the importance of such a day for the identity and psyche of Africans, many locals will honour the day by attending music concerts.

While public holidays seem to be the marker of choice when commemorating events and themes, music has its role to play. However, it must be said that, given persistent xenophobic attacks in South Africa, it would make better sense to recognise this day on a grander scale.

The arts community are doing what they can, though, and the Bassline Africa Day Concert line-up features Vusi Mahlasela, an artist who has always highlighted the plight of Pan-Africanism in song.

Guitar vocal duo 8 Bars Short will represent the thinking younger generation. The group’s first single, Kombela, examines heri-tage and tracing one’s roots.

“I like the idea of having African artists performing together on one stage, because it becomes a discussion on the arts,” says 8 Bars Short member Itai Hakim.

“The issues that we address are more often than not very similar,” adds his musical partner, Pelonomi Moiloa.

In Kombela, the group recognises how their heritage is getting lost because the elders have died and the next generation’s knowledge is limited. The song is a gentle plea; a resolution to find their own path; a philosophy that informs the thought patterns and music of 8 Bars Short.

“We are not all from South Africa and on some level we are all immigrants,” Hakim says, explaining the inspiration behind Kombela.

“But there is very little that we know about where we are from in terms of the maternal and paternal. So I started asking questions at home. It was about moving forward without knowing where I come from. I get the fact that we are hybrids – but it would be good to know.”

Moiloa also feels strongly about the quest for origin – especially from an African context.

“It is something that I identify with as person of mixed race,” Moiloa says.

“If you have two black parents or two white parents you have a set culture that you can either accept or retaliate to. But now we are all pretty much mixed-race and coming into a space where we don’t necessarily have a culture to go against or abide to because everything is mixed together. How do you define what should be mixed and in what proportion if you don’t know where you come from and why you are the way you are?”

This thinking applies to 8 Bars Short’s music, with Hakim influenced by artists such as Radiohead, Coldplay and Baaba Maal – while Moiloa enjoys classical music among her other African musical influences.