Of all the ‘alternative’ bands to have emerged post-1994 on the South African live music scene, fusing rock- and funk-inspired sounds while retaining a very indigenous aesthetic and gaining a loyal following across racial lines (sometimes referred to as the “brown band” movement), The Brother Moves On (TBMO) have proven one of the most successful - an experimental, art-bending group of socio-political mavericks who hold up a mirror to their audience and question the status quo in their music.
On the one hand they’re an art performance collective, who have recently signed on with The Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and put on their New Revolutions exhibition celebrating 50 years of the iconic art gallery. On the other hand they’re also a popular live music band, constantly evolving in terms of genre and line-up. The band’s name itself hints at the impermanence of its members, who are free to move on and back. The recent departure by guitarist Raytheon Moorvan is one example of this.
While they stand out as unique, they evoke the spirits of their sonic forefathers such as Harari and Stimela in their performances, and they live in harmony alongside their contemporaries from the BLK JKS to BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness). As a result they don’t exist as an island but instead acknowledge their past and present in their openness to collaboration (for example their collaboration with BLK JKS as The BLK Brother) and in paying homage to their musical elders.
Their sound is a hybrid of what they call “ninja gospel, maskandi rock and Afrikan voodoo pop”, which possesses the soulfulness inherent in their blackness. They’re currently promoting their latest EP, Black Tax, featuring the tracks ‘Shiyanomayini’ and ‘Bayagoloza’. Previous albums include A New Myth (2013) and their early recording The Golden Wake (re-released 2015).
‘100% African’ campaign
The band - together with a new wave of musical shape shifters who defy being boxed into genres - have been overlooked by radio station compilers. With the SABC’s new 90% local music policy, it remains to be seen if radio and the industry at large will catch up to them.
In response to the recent 90% quota, TBMO have come up with their own campaign, dubbed ‘F#@K Ninety, 100% African’. TBMO frontman Siya Mthembu explains: “What worried us about the SABC’s promise to have 90% SA music on our non-commercial radio and television stations is first, how do we hold them accountable for such? Secondly and most importantly, why not pan-African content instead of the age-old, self-important ‘United States of South Africa’ take on things?
The band sees itself as the voice of South African kids who are part of the broader African diaspora. Because of this, they will be taking their campaign on the road on their upcoming European tour. “In a bid to connect with Africans on the road and not engender such a thought process, we’ve decided to throw 100% African parties in all the territories we’re visiting,” adds Siya.
The European tour, dubbed Oorkant (Afrikaans for 'beyond'), will see the band performing several gigs in France, Germany, Denmark and England between Sunday 10 July and Sunday 14 August. Confirmed dates are as follows:
- 10 July: Hopital Caroline in Marseille, France - with Saul Williams
- 14 July: Haus der Berliner Festspiele in Berlin, Germany
- 15 July: Galarie Listros in Berlin, Germany - with Itai Hakim ft. Jazzinmotion vs. Waya Waya and Chap Ampa.
- 18 July: Grand Cosmopolis Hotel in Augusburg, Denmark
- 20 July: Café Theatre Le Populaire in Paris, France - with Makongela & The Flamingoes ft. Jazzinmotion vs. Waya Waya, Mayah Letouche and Namngiya Yenza
- 22 July: Secret Garden Party in Huntingdon, England
- 23 July: Jazz Café in Camden, England
- 29 July: The Full Moon & Attic Bar in Bristol, England
- 30 July: Homage to Batsumi and Malombo Jazz Makers in London (venue TBC) - with Jazzinmotion, Rosie Parade & Danger Ingozi
- 4 August: Alberts Schloss in Manchester, England
- 12 August: Boomtownfair in Hampshire, England
- 14 August: The Hifi Club in Leeds, England.