Soweto band seeks to heal through music

Soweto-based music band, Sun Xa Experiment comes out with ancestral sound

Sun Xa Experiment, a music band from Soweto.
Sun Xa Experiment, a music band from Soweto.
Image: SUPPLIED

While for many musicians it is about producing hits that top music charts, a Soweto-based music band, Sun Xa Experiment, is driven by creating a lasting sound that heals.

The band is made up of six individuals who label their sound as ancestral world music. The young artists believe their role in the music scene is important not only to the masses but to them.

With their music heavily drawing from culture, Sun Xa Experiment sees itself as a portal of heritage. Still keeping up with the ancient traditions theme, the group sets itself apart by painting their bodies with acrylic paint for performances. The members say painting their bodies marks the path they have taken with their spiritual journey and it gives them a distinct identity wherever they go.

The band was formed in 2014, and Sun Xa  means "the sun is out". The members are  Buyisiwe Njoko, Karolo More, Tebogo Mkhize, Lerato Seitei, Benedict Watte and Sibonelo Mgidi. Lead vocalist Njoko explains that Sun Xa Experiment regards itself as  an ancestral music group because of how people have been able to interpret it.

“Our music pays homage to our ancestors and evokes the spirits. It also heals you in the process. If we are able to connect with our ancestors we are very close to God.”

Unlike new groups who rush to release their music before the profile is established, Sun Xa Experiment slowly built its name, mainly via live performances around Johannesburg, before it dropped its debut album.

It is titled Umculo Umuthi, meaning music is medicine and boasts tracks such as Isiqalo, Ungubani Isiqgi and Bana ba Baloyi. The album is enhanced by sounds of percussions, drums, bass, strange acoustic guitar sounds, electric guitars and heavy on vocals. It is recorded by Ruben Thomas at LYD Productions.

Acoustic guitar player Mkhize says they titled their album Umculo Umuthi because of how music connects them as the band and how when they perform people receive it. According to Mkhize, the  album is layered with a great lineup of music that sparks great memories.

“The music keeps you at thought’s bay of who you are and where you come from as an individual and with those around you. Everything of it is an experience, the message packed within is of awakening and self-introspection," Mkhize says.

"Most importantly, when we do music we think about healing. You see how people interpret our music  and how they react when we perform. Everything of it is an experience, the message packed within is of awakening and self-introspection.”

Mkhize explains that their composing method is totally different. He says they do not sit down with a pen and plan on a song. Their process starts with jamming and everyone joins in and feeding from each other’s energy and it becomes a song. 

“It all starts with a jamming session and something happens and we all feel the spark... If we know it is genuine, someone comes with an idea and we all fall in love with it. We all just bring magic together.”

Njoko says it has been an exciting, entertaining and educational journey. Since the group started as an experiment it has gone through all the phases – losing members and gaining new ones until they settled with a six-piece band.

“It was important for us to go through such experiences, but we learn  one thing – you cannot replace another human. We ended up deciding that we will not be replacing people anymore.

"We are grateful that most original band members are here. What has kept us together is trust and that we spend a lot of time together rehearsing and that has made us to jell with each other.” 

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