Masauko Chipembere and Neo Muyanga are collectively Blk Sonshine one of the most exciting and talked about new groups to emerge in the last decade.They blend melodic and sometimes percussive acoustic guitars with hiphop,jazz,and folk influences as well as a huge helping of soul from their African motherland.The result is emotional music that owes no allegiance to any one culture but instead combines and then enlarges musical boundries.
In a live concert situation Blk Sonshine involves the crowd deeply,sometimes inciting a call and response that echoes the tribal traditions of their families in Malawi and South Africa.Masauko is a dynamic and gifted performer,fierce and passionate one moment and surprisingly tender the next.Neo is a polar opposite in many ways,a gentle but strong on stage personality with a wicked sense of humour.
For some songs Neo sings in his native Sotho tongue a particularly musical and lyrical language,common to both songwriters is a finely developed sense of pop melody and African rhythm that is anything but common today.
Masauko was born in the U.S of Malawian politically exiled parents and grew up there where he developed the potent and unique hiphop influences that give Blk Sonshine their street edge.On a two year sojourn to Central and Southern Africa he met up with Neo and a growing friendship developed into a musical partnership that continually amazes all who come into contact with them.
Their debut album “Blk Sonshine” was recorded at House of Blues,Encino California during a US tour that saw them performing at the Tribute to Archbishop Tutu concert in LA alongside Stevie Wonder,Joan Baez and Hugh Masekela.The band have also recorded two tracks with Wu-Tang’s RZA for an upcoming “TEKITHA” album .An earlier version of “Building” was included on the underground compilation “The Funky Precedent” which also featured Dilated Peoples and Black Eyed Peas and the band performed with noted UK drum’n bass outfit 4 HERO in LA .
Standout tracks include the whimsical folkpop of “Born in a taxi” (the first single),the moving Sotho ballad”Bahlalefi”,
“Agitation” and the funky “Building” as well as the hip hop soaked “Crazy”. “Blk Sonshine” captures all the subtlety and power of this remarkable hybrid of African,European and American music.
The group performed at the prestigious WOMAD festival in 2000,the only new SA group on the bill as well as blowing a hardcore R&B /hiphop audience away on the Mary J Blige/Kcee & Jo Jo tour..Recent appearances includes scorching sets at both Oppikoppi festivals,a standing room only tour of Cape Town and scores of club and concert dates.The band’s first video “Crazy” (directed by longtime friend and fan Niki Newman) has been one of the most requested videos on TV.
In September 2000 the band’s “Born in a taxi” was chosen as the theme tune for the new SANTAM TV commercial bringing the ‘Sonshine’ message to mainstream South Africa .Blk Sonshine recently guested with world renowned jazz guitarist Ronny Jordan who caught the band ‘live’ on breakfast radio and was so blown away that he invited them onstage to jam on his opening night.They have also opened for Peruvian diva Susanna Baca at the “Arts Alive” festival and wowed a hardcore audience at the hiphop underground stars Dead Prez concert.In keeping with their strong grass roots leanings the second video “Building” was shot by aspiring film students from a leading Johannesburg university.
Blk Sonshine have just completed a wildly successful South African tour in June/July including sellout performances in all the major cities and rounded off this section of the “Building” tour with a standing room only four night stint at the Grahamstown Festival.
To be continued ….