BLK SONSHINE / “Blk Sonshine Mixtape”
Masauko Chipembere and Neo Muyanga
It all depends on what you want to call good music. Somewhere in their heritage nearly every human culture has a folk music tradition and part of that tradition usually includes “troubadours,” i.e. roving musicians who sing popular music about topical events and timeless emotions such as love and heroic persons and events. Troubadours are particularly strong in African heritage cultures.
Country blues singers are America’s most prominent and most recent troubadour lineage. When I first heard Blk Sonshine I was a bit confused. I liked the music a lot but I couldn’t align all the sonic pieces. Who were these cats? I knew they were continental Africans but they sounded a bit too comfortable in the language. They identified Africa as home but sounded like they had hung out on Mr. Walter’s South Central L.A. porch for a healthy spell.
The music had contemporary black music structures and they even had a couple of freestyle raps on their debut release. And the audience fit right in so snugly I was sure that this was not simply a gig recording. I tried following up and finding out more but the trail ran dry and I just let it go.
Fortunately, in the fullness of time, the puzzle was assembled and mysteries did unfold.
Founded in in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1996, Blk Sonshine is a collaboration of Masauko Chipembere and Neo Muyanga. Masauko was born in the United States to parents from Malawi who were living in exile at the time of Masauko’s birth. He studied music at Cal State Northridge.
Neo Muyanga was born in Soweto, South Africa and studied at The United World College in Trieste, Italy where he majored in philosophy, minored in physics, and also studied classical music.
These then are not self-taught folk artists but instead Blk Sonshine are college educated musicians who have decided to return to their roots and make music of two worlds, a duality that is at the heart of the post-colonial, urban African personality. Their background also explains how it is they cast such a wide net stylistically while remaining focused on the conditions and concerns of their people.
Their self-titled debut album was recorded in California at the House of Blues studios while Blk Sonshine was touring. Good Life, the second album is actually their third album—the original second album was “lost” during the recording process in South Africa and it took over three years for Blk Sonshine to put together a follow-up to their phenomenally successful debut, whose single “Building” went to number one in South Africa.
They remind me of Taj Mahal, who is also both college educated and roots oriented. This is truly world music and, as Louis Armstrong noted, it’s a wonderful world.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Blk Sonshine Mixtape Playlist
03 “Perfect Love”
04 “Soul Smile”
05 “Fingerpainting A Masterpiece”
06 “Good Life”
09 “Watch This Woman”
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