I AM looking at a picture of ragga Maffin man. He is looking into the distance, detached from everything that surrounds him.

I AM looking at a picture of ragga Maffin man. He is looking into the distance, detached from everything that surrounds him.

In the far distance, there are some dark clouds. They seem to be covered by smoke.

His hair, if I can call it that, since it looks like a cleaning mop, is tied with a blanket.

There are mountains in the background and he is perched on a mountain slope.

And if one looked further into the world of the spirits, assuming one had the power to do so, you could easily conclude that he is meditating seriously.

This is the cover of Bongo Maffin's new album, No Retreat, No Surrender, which was released on Friday. It will wake everyone up from their cultural slumber, partly because ragga music lovers have been waiting a long time for this man, who was once called Appleseed, to come up with a solo album.

This is after he went the same way as several music groups that became institutions but then fell apart. They break up because members become jaded belonging to a group and hanker for individual exploration as well as individual growth and experimentation.

Thandiswa Mazwai first opted out and released Zabalaza, which became a success. Now she has a second album, Ibokwe. Like Zabalaza, it has established her as a solo artist. The reality is that concentrating on building her individual personality, identity, fortune and fame, she became distant from the rest of the band members.

The fact that Jahseed got into trouble with the law and was temporarily deported to his native Zimbabwe a few years ago created doubts about whether this group would ever get together again, creating music that made them one of the most prominent contributors to pop culture in the country in the 1990s.

Speedy's fate was earlier sealed when he left the group and pursued a solo career. He still has to bank money in buckets as a solo artist.

Stoan, the other member of Bongo Maffin, is certainly not living as comfortably as he was with Bongo Maffin, opting to supplement his earnings from his solo efforts through juggling a career as a TV presenter and radio DJ.

Jahseed, after coming back into the country, resumed his career with his fellow musician in ragga music CD, Andy Kasrils. The two are an institution when it comes to ragga DJs.

Ask the youngsters who frequent their ragga nights at the Bassline in Newtown, Johannesburg, where the young, hot, clean, dirty and the suits mix in a unique music experience that attracts an odd type of audience from all classes. When these two are on the decks they make everyone forget their class differences and just wanting to hit the dance floor.

Jahseed's new CD, which was released on Friday, has come out against this background of Bongo Maffin, making it one of the much-awaited CDs from a once popular Afro-pop-ragga band.

"People were starting to wonder whether I can sing or not. This is the answer to that question.

"I have spent a lot of time in the studio working on this album. It is a mix of ragga, Afro-pop and Afro-soul. It deals with issues because the reality is, as much as we think that Africa is cool, something will always happen that will remind you that Africa is a continent of contradictions. We need to raise issues that affect Africans all the time," Bongo said.

He seems to have picked up some weight, I observed.

Kasrils, his friend and business partner in the ragga-night sessions since 1996, said: "What I like about him is that he is serious about his music. Each time I go to his house I find him busy on the piano.

He has a fully equipped studio, which means he has invested in his career."

The 18-track album, No Retreat, No Surrender, features Thandiswa Mazwai as both a vocalist and composer.

It has been mixed by Bruce "Dope" Sebitlo and is released through Kalawa and distributed and published by Sony Music.