Sounds of Africa: BLK JKS

Are you listening to the BLK JKS (pronounced "Black Jacks")? If you aren't, then stop whatever you're doing and listen to these guys! Based out of Johannesburg, their sound is absolutely nothing that you would even begin to imagine would come out of Africa, yet their music is so rooted in the continent, it is impossible to think otherwise once you have heard them.

The heavy influence of rock with electric guitar sessions that the likes of Jimi Hendrix would be more than proud of is mixed with some Afrobeat, reggae, blues and heavy metal to create a sound that is very distinct. With a sound so unique and an emphasis on great rock, you would think that they would have been a hit as soon as they started back in 2000, but they actually struggled to get gigs in their hometown due to how different they were from the rest of the bandwagon. That all changed when Philly-based DJ Diplo heard them and basically one thing led to another and the group signed with the US-based indie rock label Secretly Canadian and they have just been on the cover of one magazine or the other, playing on radio stations at venues across the U.S. and Europe.

They recently released their first full album After Robots, and let me just tell you...this album is SOLID! I could barely get through this post because I was doing more listening and dancing around than actual writing. Right off the bat you are hit with the goodness that is the song "Molalatladi" which perfectly sets the stage for the entire album. Tracks like "Lakeside" (take a listen below) and "Banna Ba Modimo" keep things jammin' while others like "Skeleton" start off nice and easy then lay it on you thick near the end. What album would be complete without a ballad? None. But "Standby" is no sappy little love song with lyrics that remain edge and drum beats making sure that it doesn't get too slow. "Cursor" and another slow jam that I can't get enough off and the is probably one of my favorite tracks. Things close off with "Tselane" which is a tale of ghosts and monsters that visit naughty kids and even without knowing the language, you can tell this song is a lullably but still very much for grown-ups.

To get a little acoustic vibe from these guys, check them out on NPRs World Cafe right here (you can also download the podcast of the entire session). You can also get the interview album over on iTunes in about 3 clicks.

Have a great weekend!

{Photos: Fader}

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