The concert called Motherland Africa is on November 26, 2021 starting at 1pm -4pm.
By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
Alternative music group Azuri Street Symphony, anchored by Hloni Kutu has been playing on the streets of Maboneng in Johannesburg in the past five years, mainly basking in the streets in return for whatever money music lovers could give to support them.
With a remarkable alternative music repertoire that is intellectually stimulating to listen to, here is a group that should be far by now. This group’s musical tentacles extends from Johannesburg to as far as Tokyo Japan, thanks to the group’s collaboration with some Japanese musicians who have translated the music their music into a Japanese language over the years. And according to the group this collaborative effort between Azuri Street Symphony and some Japanese musicians who spotted them playing in the streets of Maboneng in recent years, is paying dividends as the group’s music has turned them into celebrities in the eyes of Japanese music lovers. This is as they have not yet had a chance to travel to Japan. But who knows what might happen in the future?
This is clearly a dedicated and prolific group in South Africa producing alternative music in South Africa against the backdrop of commercially driven dance music such as Amapiano. And besides, the band has composed music worth three albums, and all those beautiful tunes have not yet been released, waiting for that day when a producer with a smart ear for good music, and a recording company executive willing to invest in quality music will come by to give Azuri Street Symphony that opportunity to shine. This is the opportunity they have been waiting for years, playing and entertaining revelers in the streets of Maboneng in the meantime.
An incredibly focused band that refuses to let the general lack of support for non commercial, but quality music by an industry that looks at short term goals to make quick profits, this year Hloni and his mates made a bold move. They packed their personal stuff, including cycling bicycles into a bakkie and headed to Grahamstown (Makhanda) for the National Arts Festival. Not that they were booked to perform in any of the official venues. They were not on the official bill of artists either performing on the main programme or on the Fringe.
“We decided we were going to go there and see what other alternative venues besides the official Grahamstown venues where we could play our music. We loaded the bicycles so that once in Grahamstown ,we could cycle around venues, making our transportation needs much easier. Little did we know that a truck from nowhere would smash into our bakkie, sending our bicycles to flyg all over in the air, mangled by the impact of the accident. Our bakkie hurtled forward, only to stop almost 100 metres away from the accident scene. Fortunately none of us were hurt. We made a U turned picked up our mangled bicycles, loaded them onto the bakkie and drove on to Grahamstown. We were determined that not even that accident would stop us from achieving what we wanted to achieve.
“When we got to Grahhamstown (now renamed Makhanda), we got to work straightaway,, securing alternative venues where we would have shows parallel to the National Festival shows. In fact we were so successful getting booked in alternative venues around Grahamstown to the extent that we had 22 venues that booked us. But then another disaster struck: President Cyril Ramaphosa announced another lockdown and all those dreams of performing at 22 venues suddenly evaporated into thin air,” Kutu told CITYLIFE/ARTS in an interview.
Without money and a means to get by they had to think fast.
“We were fortunate enough to secure some venues where we could play for a limited number of people. We ended up spending a month there before coming back to Johannesburg.”
However the stars seem to be shining on Azuri Street Symphony eventually. The group will hold a concert at Makers Valley Studio Space at Victoria Yards, 16 Viljoen Street, Lorentzville,, Johannesburg on November 26, 2021.
The concert dubbed Motherland Africa, going by the name of one of their songs from the first album (not yet released) will commence from 1pm till 4pm.
“This is thanks to the Digital Mobility Fund of the Norwegian Embassy, Samro, Samro Foundation, Concerts SA and administered by iKS Consulting. This is our first sponsored concert in years, and for that we are grateful to the sponsors for affording us an opportunity to make a musical presentation to music lovers, and the concert is for free,” said Kutu.
The band takes this concert so serious that even with limited funds , they have been rehearsing for this show for a month now.
“Our music talks to the soul and the mind. We are not a commercial band and neither are we rock stars. In our music we tap into the social issues that we see in society and raise them for people’s attention. Africa has so many social issues that we are not yet there whereby we think we are fine and therefore play celebratory music. Africa needs healing and our music therefore heals the hearts and minds of a broken society that still needs to build itself from up from the ground.
Those who will be on stage on November 26, 2021, for the Motherland Africa concert are Hloni Kutu (Guitar and Vocals), Victor Mabunda (Piano), Obyshswe Seage (Percussions), Molefe Moema (Saxophone) and Wallsungu (Drums).