Afro-pop group Freshlyground raises its flag and tackles gender issues

Freshlyground are to release their seventh album.Image: Jonx Pillemer
Freshlyground are to release their seventh album.Image: Jonx Pillemer

Award-winning local pop group Freshlyground interrogates sexuality and gender politics in their latest single, Blck Grls.

The song was dropped officially in February. The full album, titled Can't Stop, will be released next Friday.

A listen to the track suggests that Blck Grls will be one of the group's biggest hits after Nomvula. It has been released on iTunes and Apple Music.

The song highlights gender politics, looking at how women have to conform to rules to be accepted in a society.

Lead vocalist Zolani Mahola says the song is inspired by her experience growing up in a community in which girls lived under many limitations.

"It's a song about throwing aside limitations and embracing freedom to be whatever you want to be, regardless of what you look like, who you appear to be or where you come from," she says.

The Eastern Cape-born songwriter, actor and singer says: "I was told I dressed in the wrong clothes, that I had to comb my hair, that I had too thick an African accent, that I was too fat and later that I was too thin.

"I was told these things by well-meaning people who were trying to get me to be a good, 'normal' black South African girl.

"It's taken me a long time to realise that those concerns and limitations were about their own fears and insecurities."

Asked if she still has to explain why she has a white husband, she says not anymore.

"I feel that I don't owe anyone any explanation, and I am comfortable where I am."

The mother of two says the song is not dedicated to black girls only but to all people who are restricted and cannot live their lives freely.

The group's seventh offering comes after a hectic four-year touring schedule. In between, Mahola collaborated with different artists and featured in her first theatre musical, Calling Me Home.

"When people don't see us performing locally they think we have taken a break. It is not the case, we travel a lot, that is why we do not release regularly," she says.

Mahola says the new album has a lot of rock influences as their sound always has various influences.

"We never stick to one sound, we always experiment with different sounds."

Freshlyground released their debut album in 2003 titled Jika Jika. Their second album, Nomvula, was released in 2004 and achieved double platinum sales.

They have also released Ma'Cheri (2007), Radio Africa (2010) and The Legend (2013).