BLK JKS spell it out
By Robert Laing
Run traditional African music through the punk mill, and something very exciting and original comes out — a new sound being pioneered by the BLK JKS.
In a country segregated by commercial radio into rock for whites, kwaito for blacks, the BLK JKS tend to be seen as an interesting anomaly, a black rock band. For instance, SL magazine hailed them with the headline Rock is Back, and its Black!
Lead vocalist and guitarist Linda Buthelezi, however, says the BLK JKS don't consider their music to be primarily rock.
"Our music suggests rock because of the guitar tones and the aggression vocally and instrumentally," Linda told me during an interview on my 1485AM radio show.
"We've got strange time signatures in most of our songs which we draw from African rhythms. We keep punting this African trip because: one we are black, and two we listen to a lot of African music."
The BLK JKS haven't released an album yet, but have recorded six tracks which they plan to release as an independent CD to sell at shows this year. Linda, who is a self taught graphic designer besides musician, plans to personalize the sleeve of each of these EPs which will include live footage of the band.
The reason the name is written BLK JKS instead of Black Jacks isn't purely a nod to the SMS generation. Linda the graphic designer developed the band's name with its T-Shirt logo. He picked a font where the starting B has a hand, the next four letters emoticons representing each band member, and the final S has a teardrop with a map of Africa in it.
"I am graphical. So is the rest of the band. You have to be to make music that is very visual," Linda said.
Linda and rhythm guitarist Mpumi Mcata hail from the East Rand suburb Sprutview, while bass player Molefi Makananise and drummer Tsepang Ramoba are from Soweto.
"So it's East meets West — causing chaos," Molefi says.
Mpumi and Tsepang are self-taught film-makers busy documenting train surfing.
"Train surfing is a sick culture that is out there now," Linda said. Though the BLK JKS haven't developed a song about train surfing (yet), it's the kind of topic they gravitate toward. Linda likes his lyrics to be topical and close to home.
One of the tracks on the forthcoming CD is titled Lakeside. It's about a minibus taxi pileup with paramedics rushing in. Another is titled SK 1, local township slang for gangsta.
"We try to represent what is happening in South Africa and the rest of Africa."
Ironically, the BLK JKS effort to "not be another band getting its music taste from MTV" resulted in it getting pipped to the post in 2005's Global Battle of the Bands. Martin Rocka and The Sick Shop came first — a great band, but hardly one which strives to capture its home country's zeitgeist like the BLK JKS do.
A reason the judges gave for not giving the BLK JKS first prize was their unique and original music was deemed "selfish".
Linda took it as a compliment. He has true punk sensibility and set out to develop a sound that would rub prevailing tastes the wrong way. Still, it's a pity a really original and uniquely South African band didn't get showcased to the world.
"We speak for a lot of South Africans," Linda says. "We would have had a lot to offer."
Once the BLK JKS's CD is out, it seems inevitable that white radio station programme managers will dismiss their sound as "Bantu music" while their counterparts at kwaito stations will dismiss them as too rock.
"It's a great opportunity to mix the two worlds together. We talk a lot about unity. Musically we can show it," Molefi says.
Take it easy
Author: Jade, 20 September 2007
There arrangements are just kak, they try to be clever on stage, they must try to make music for the people, keep it simple & natural
Author: Jaded, 22 November 2007
BLK JKS are amazing, ill tell it to you straight when youre in line for tix to the 50 cent show baby
Getting better all the time
Author: Gregory, 19 December 2007
BLK JKS got blown away by a really great band on the night they played the RP Studio Battle of the Bands at Emperors Palace in 2005, but I had the opportunity to hear them again recently at Cool Runnings in Melville,oddly enough they played with the band that knocked them out in 2005.BLK JKS has improved 100% and their style of music is different yet enjoyable.Best is to go to one of their gigs.
Author: Kaos Blac, 4 March 2008
I hope when they tour america they get to play an afro-punk show.
trying to give them cash...
Author: redherring, 26 June 2008
...is harder than you think. tried to buy their ep off digital.othermusic.com, but they don't sell to people outside the US. where else can I get it? Anyone know?
Author: Alternative-kid, 6 January 2009
"Once the BLK JKS's CD is out, it seems inevitable that white radio station programme managers will dismiss their sound as "Bantu music" while their counterparts at kwaito stations will dismiss them as too rock" I think the quoted statement is stuck-up. I pretty much believe that when they decided on their sound they had already noticed that there are people out there who are not black or white...but people who appreciate music for what it is and those who are hungry for something different, blk jks felt obliged to feed them, so DO NOT BRING RACE IN MUSIC BROTHER! Peace!
I hope you're right and I'm wrong
Author: Joe Blog, 6 January 2009
I'm all for keeping race out of everything. But my experience working for big media is cliched old ideas rule.
Sense of style
Author: SS Khanyile, 23 September 2009
The boys are very unique their style represents african pride the fact that they have natural hair makes it clear that they have not forget South Africa.I quoted one of them saying there will be no fake American english acsent for them that made me realise that we have real icons in SA.To surrender i say show the boys that this is what we do in SA it what we are made of show them they are only seeing chicks the hens are still coming thanks for paving the road for us
Author: Lauren, 3 October 2009
Dont bring race into this... these guys are excellant - thats all there is to say about it. They stand out because of the amazing music they create, not because of race or what radio station programme manager's think - and anyway who cares what they think anyway?!?! Most radio stations are notorious at pandering to commercial crap (like Lady Gaga - come on!) I say, dont be dictated by what mass-media says you should listen to or what they say is "good" - its all so paint-by-numbers. You know when you have found something brilliant... and BLK JKS are just that! Just enjoy the music!!
Author: punk?, 19 December 2009
The above reviewer -- and those who've posted comments -- refer to "Afro punk". This is like no punk I've heard! Blk Jks' most obvious influences come from 70's prog rock groups, but there's such a huge mix of styles listening to them makes me feel vaguely schizophrenic. This doesn't mean they're not very, very good, however. And once they cease to be quite so ecclectic and find their own voice they could be brilliant.
Author: Bogosi., 31 December 2009
To refer to the jacks as Afropunk is not necessarily an observation on the musical style but more about the punk aesthetic and attitude of nonconformity..i love them because they make sounds i hear when the world sleeps.very proud of these cats...oh, and dont hate on gaga, she's brought performance art concepts to pop music i haven't seen since Kanye or like michael?lol:-)
Author: Ryan, 8 March 2010
I saw them live, they suck
lots of love
Author: Brunette, 15 April 2010
very different,creative and arti.love them
Author: Didi, 9 June 2010
BLK JKS Please can you guys be more in contact with your fans. I've searched high and low for some sort of e-mail address where we can know where your latest gigs and current affairs are. Is there any way to be in touch with yal. Not saying your give us your numbers but atleast an e-mail address?
Author: LoveChild, 19 June 2010
Blk Jks are like a fresh leaf of lettuce!!I like the new flavour they are bringing!
One word is " marvellous"
Author: Kabimba, 9 October 2010
Critics will always be there- but i had a chance to see them perform and i enjoyed. These guys are jus awesome. 100% african
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