Roughly translated from xhosa to “children”, black heritage occupies the bedrock of Bantwanas’ foundations. Headed by acclaimed resident South African DJ/producers Blanka Mazimela and Ryan Murgatroyd, the band’s far-reaching line up extends to a local collective of vocalists and musicians who make up the country’s bustling dance scene. With a clear objective, their mission to celebrate African heritage is implemented by their music’s ability to reinterpret tribal culture through often cinematic, genre spanning African electronica and house music. After having a series of successful releases on labels such as Lee Burridge’s All Day I Dream and their very own Bantwanas Kollektiv, the collective are looking to make immediate waves in early 2021 with their recently released single, In Silence, featuring a remix from the Cologne-based DJ/producer Tim Engelhardt. WWD caught up with the collective to get the lowdown…
WWD: Hello Bantwanas! Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. 2020 was certainly a tough year for musicians. How did you guys cope with the challenges of COVID-19?
It hasn’t been easy trying to adapt to the new normal. This period has allowed us to focus more on our content. We have had to resort to innovative ways of gathering our content and producing this for the future. I think the period has been both a blessing and a curse but we are grateful that we are still able to produce the much-needed content for this period.
WWD: How has lockdown and social distancing rules impacted the music scene in South Africa?
Being a band that particularly caters to festivals it’s really been hard. Musicians are really struggling here. I think though that it’s like that for the rest of the world.
WWD: In recent years, the global dance community has seen a growing appetite for Afro House music. What part has the South African scene had to play in this rise?
The rise of local the Afro House scene has come for a while now. Producers have really been consistent in trying to get the sound to the world. With the likes of Black Coffee championing the scene, it was bound to rise. In South Africa, afro house music is part of our daily lives. We manage to keep this throughout our daily lives.
WWD: You’ve just released your new single ‘In Silence’ via your very own Bantwanas Kollektiv label. What inspired the project and how does it feel to have it out in the world?
In Silence was a project that we finished in 2019. Actually, it is part of our studio jams. We worked and finished the song within a couple of hours. The writer’s Korus & Xolisiwe really put their hearts out on the record. Having the music out to the world is always an incredible feat.
WWD: With such an eclectic mix of vocalists and musicians at the collective’s disposal, how do you normally orchestrate the writing and recording process?
We normally just sit in the studio, we buy lots of food, we start a conversation, and then someone comes up with an idea. This idea can either be a vocal melody or just some keys. Sometimes we just pack our bags and head out to Eastern Cape for a writing camp. This has really enhanced our connection with our roots.
WWD: How does ‘In Silence’ compare to previous releases? Has there been any progression or departure in style from what’s proceeded it?
In Silence is a fusion of our more ambient downtempo style of music. We really wanted to showcase our range with this one. We have more records like this. We see ourselves playing this at some lounge bar in Turkey someday.
WWD: The EP features a stunning tech house remix from Cologne’s rising talent, Tim Engelhardt. What qualities attracted you to work him on this new release?
We think Tim definitely resonated with the record. So much that he felt it was best to for him to remix it. His style of music really appeals to us.
It is an honor for him to be part of our repertoire.
WWD: Traditional African music and culture is an essential aspect of the Bantwanas sound. How important is it for African musicians to preserve these values and continue to apply them in their work?
Our culture is rich in terms of music. It is part of our daily lives. Having it adapted to the current form of electronic music is a great pleasure because we get to appeal to a wider audience. If a kid can grow up understanding the importance of cultural enrichment then our job as a group is done.
WWD: Who are some of the most exciting, young musicians currently pioneering the African sound and why?
Guys like Dlala Thukzin, Karyendasoul, Enoo Napa, Nizhe De Soul & FKA Mash are really doing a great job in elevating the House scene down here and around the world. The amount of quality they’ve been putting out is really good for the scene.
WWD: Looking ahead, what are the Bantwanas’ plans for this year?
We have loads of music in store. Lockdown has really given us more time to polish our content. We have a full year of releases coming up. Thank you for having us.
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