Undiscovered Zone

Undiscovered: Soweto Quartet Urban Village…



Soweto-based four-piece band Urban Village drop their EP, “Ubaba”, their debut for Parisian label Nø Førmat! An outfit with a mesmerising sound – surely destined to become in-demand on the World Music scene internationally.

Marrying the day-to-day experiences of black South Africans with ebullient elements from traditional Zulu music, Urban Village is the alias of four experimental musicians all born and raised in the township of Soweto at the tail end of Apartheid.

Singer/flautist Tubatsi Mpho Moloi, guitarist Lerato Lichaba, drummer Xolani Mtshali and bassist Simangaliso Dlamini.

The release of “Ubaba” on the French label home of Oumou Sangaré, Blick Bassy & Mélissa Laveaux, precedes Urban Village’s debut album, “Udondolo”, scheduled for release in January 2021.

Watch the Justice Mukheli-directed music video for the title track of the EP “Ubaba”, below…A mesmerising sound not too far away from the legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo, perhaps – with shades of  Zimbawe’s The Four Brothers? You decide…  

Urban Village release music under a name which specifically references the blend of cultures, music and rites assimilated into the now one million-strong population of Soweto.

When black South Africans from multiple provinces were brought to the area during the establishment of Apartheid, under strict segregation from Johannesburg’s white suburbs.

They came to dig the “the city of gold” (Egoli, the Zulu name for Johannesburg) on behalf of big companies, and formed the first urban proletariat in Africa. Everyone took pieces of their village to this new town, and an original culture was born.

Evolving Soweto into a sprawling urban village. Whilst others are still digging for precious metal, Urban Village are mining the mixed legacies of which they are heirs.

The video created for “Ubaba” – which translates as “father” – by fast-rising filmmaker Justice Mukheli, is an evocative rendering of daily life in one of the many Soweto hostels which in the 1900s housed black male South Africans, forcibly separated from their families while working in the city’s mines.

Speaking about the video, Urban Village note; “Justice is our brother from Soweto. From the moment we discussed his vision for the Ubaba video, we trusted he would bring the song to life on the screen.

“The video shows the different roles played by fathers in society; to nurture, to care, to love, and to protect their families. Salute to all the Ubabas out there present in the house”.

On a street corner of Soweto’s Mzimhlophe neighbourhood, the band’s guitarist Lerato came across older Zulu musicians and their style of maskandi.

From there he went on to mix styles from homelands and rural areas, all sharpened in club jam sessions, where he met Tubatsi, during which spoken word, hip-hop and jazz rub shoulders freely.

Urban Village remained steeped in the cultural consciousness of South Africa’s troubled past, looking forwards with the same “ubuntu” (common humanity) with which the likes of Mandela and Biko resisted apartheid.

“Ubaba” was partially recorded at legendary Downtown Studios in the heart of Johannesburg and at Figure of 8 studios in the leafy suburbs of Randburg, showing the stark contrast of Johannesburg in 2020.

It possesses the energy of live music, intimately polished by Frédéric Soulard (Maestro, Limousine, Jeanne Added). A journey through all the colours of Soweto. This is where it draws its consistency, strength & identity.

That of Soweto itself:  a dormitory town designed to monitor those who were sent there, it has become a laboratory of music where the hopes of an entire people resonate, even today.



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