Inspired by Steve Biko, Fela Kuti and Fees Must Fall,  12 piece band iPhupho L’ka Biko takes to stage at Mangrove in Braamfontein on Saturday

By Edward Tsumele

When the Fees Must Fall movement organically emerged as students took to the streets on and off several South African campuses in 2016, it became an unprecedented action by South African students post 1994.

Many in society were taken by surprise as they could not immediately figure out what was going on and why. After all Post 1994 student life on the surface appeared to be normal, and yet anger was brewing among the student body because of unresolved myriad of problems with the higher education sector. These problems included a sense of alienation on mainly formerly white universities by mainly black students, exclusionary culture of universities, especially affecting the poor and financially struggling, the untransformed higher education curriculum that still centres Eurocentric epistemologies, in the process marginalising the African experience and knowledge, as well as a general lack of societal transformation in South Africa among other grievances seizing students..

While not everything the students demanded was achieved, what that popular mass protest by tertiary students did achieve though was highlighting the burning issues among the student body at tertiary institutions. University management could no longer pretend that everything was Ok in the halls of learning on campus.

Also the consequence of those protests was to inspire so many other movements to stand up and speak out about issues affecting them instead of marinating silence in the face of their issues and continue to endure the difficulties .without taking action.

One group that was already in existence when these student protests erupted is a 12 piece band, based in Johannesburg, and which got inspired by the action of the students creatively speaking..

iPhupho L’ka Biko is a 12-piece jazz band founded by composer and bassist Nhlanhla Ngqanqu in 2015. The members of the band met in Braamfontein, where they frequently interacted through school ensembles, jam sessions, and circular live music venues. The band although founded years earlier is heavily influenced by the Fees Must Fall movement with songs like Umhlaba wethu, a song that morphs, blending original ideas with references to historic and popular melodies.

Beasts of No Nation” is a confrontation of the orchestrators of a long-running black struggle, not the pawns and is inspired by Fela Kuti’s  Beast of No Nation, The song was written to confront the hierarchical forces at work in black people’s repression and oppression with an ultimate goal to expose global institutions.

iPhupho L’ka Biko this weekend has a date with their fans at Mangrove in Braamfontein. They will be performing at Mangrove on May 14, 2022, starting at 7pm. It is a group worth watching for those that will be in and around Johannesburg on Saturday.

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