- Caption: The Muffinz are one of the fine groups to recently enter the music scene
Words by Nkanyiso Masango
IN CASE you have not heard, word on the streets is that there’s a new band making blissful noises.
The Muffinz are on a mission to raise the bar in the realm of the neo-soul music with their eleven-track debut release titled Have you Heard? The album is the fruits of collective work by Sifiso ‘Atomza’ Buthelezi, Karabo ‘Skabz’ Moeketsi, Mthabisi ‘Mthae’ Sibanda, Simphiwe ‘Simz’ Kula and Gregory ‘Keke’ Mabizela. “We were performing at an event a couple of weeks ago when a gentleman walked up to us and said ‘you guys love music and the music loves you,” Mthae gloats.
A milieu of messages and feelings are compressed on the quintet’s songs to take the listener to a particular universe so to speak. Take a tune like “Djoni Kopou,” it is a melody that encapsulates the feelings without having to conform to any formal linguistic construct. Group members refer to Keke’s style of scatting on the song as the ‘Keke-lingo. “It doesn’t have any meaning, nothing. See, music is about feeling, the whole concept of music is that even if it doesn’t have a particular meaning it has tons and tons of feelings”. A personal favorite is ‘Ghetto’ (…is a state of mind) a song that reflects on the social dysfunctions of the townships where the majority live below the poverty line. The song’s lyrics are not ambiguous: “Said I’m from a place where being desolate is the same as being rich, where government resources are far from our reach. Corruption is plentiful and fat cats roam the streets, while at home we suffer with rats at our feet.” Simz declares their lack of fear when it comes to talking about bad things that are happening in society. “However we are not entirely about things that are negative as we’re also about family,” he adds. Mthae, who’s from Zimbabwe, elaborates on a message contained on the song ‘Khumbul’ekhaya.
“Everybody thinks that South Africa is like heaven, the land of milk and honey. You know, there are people who are here but there’s no place like home. I want to go home but then I can’t because of the circumstances.” Improvisation plays a big part in the quintet’s music making process. Simphiwe ‘Simz’ Kula highlights this point: “We come up with music according to what we do… it’s about the passion, we love what we do.” It goes without saying that music is something that’s innate within each individual in the group, considering the fact that not one of the members has actually had any formal or professional training in the instruments they play. Keke recalls his introduction to “drums” before playing the real drums.
“I created my own drums from used tins,” he says. “My snare was an empty coffee container, then I used a rice plastic bag as a drum cover.” Keke is also known for inventing his own musical instrument known as the ‘Keke-Horn. It’s an instrument made out of an empty Sadie roll-on container, an empty 2litre cool-drink container and a bread plastic bag. A guide on how all these plastics are turned into a music playing instrument left us a bit confused, so we left the explanation out. “The music I make out of it sound like that of a trumpet or a trombone, it’s very versatile. I actually entered the SA’s Got Talent Competition in 2009 with the horn and made it to the semi-finals. Hugh Masekela dubbed it the Keke-horn. Unfortunately it didn’t make the album.” Each individual in the band has his own musical influence and background: Keke’s is Salif Keita and Angelique Kidjo. Atomza describes himself as coming from a more poetic, hip-hop background. “I used to be a ‘m’rapper’ and listened to a lot of Tupac Shakur. “There was a time when I quit my job. I had to tell my Mom I was looking for something meanwhile I was doing this (music). Last year things were rough, there was a time when we went without eating for almost three days. It’s what Oliver Mtukudzi said in an interview with one magazine. At some point he came back from Germany where he played at a posh venue but back home he had to play in a dodgy place in a shack. He said ‘it’s not about me it’s about where the music takes me.”
Mthae has more of a pop influence ranging from the Backstreet Boys to Johnny Clegg, P.J Powers and Tracy Chapman. Simz prefers the jazz type of feel. Skabz is also jazz and gospel inclined. Deciding upon the group’s name was not anything precedent but rather something they adopted along their musical journey during a tour in Cape Town. “I guess what made the name stick was that it’s just a name, as Africans our names have meaning, but as a band we just wanted something that was going to be fun, you know. We wanted to let the music speak,” says Atomza. Mthae concludes with a declaration that as a band they want to be out there to dominate Africa and conquer the World.
- Check out our gig guide for performances by the Muffinz