Exhilarating and hypnotic, BCUC bring their trance-inducing tunes to Brixton.
Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness, better known as BCUC, are on a mission, a mission to connect us with ourselves; be it through honouring our ancestors, releasing emotions through music, and learning to love others, but most of all through loving ourselves.
Currently midway through their European tour, the 7-piece South African band show no signs of road-weary fatigue as they take to the stage a little after midnight. Already warmed up, their set is high energy from the get-go; frontman Nkosi Zithulele jumps on the spot, blows his whistle and is already wiping away beads of sweat after the first song.
“If it’s your first time accommodating us, all I ask is… don’t be slow.” Zithulele then nods to the band to launch into the next fast-paced number.
Hailing from Soweto in South Africa, the band draw inspiration from ancestral war songs and ritualistic music. In their songs, funk-fuelled bass sits alongside the bird-like sound of the nose flute, while the metallic Imbomu horn floats over driving conga rhythms. As well as English, they sing in all 11 of the official languages of South Africa. Their lyrics touch on social inequalities and the difficult reality of the poorest workers in their country.
It’s hard to pin down their style, self-described as ‘afropsychedelia’, BCUC’s sound blends soul, funk, trance, hip-hop and gospel. At one point, their music takes a brief unexpected turn into KRS-One’s Sound of da Police.
Their music brings local sounds to global ears and yet remains decidedly anti-mainstream. Their 2019 album The Healing consists of only 3 tracks, but has running time of almost 40 minutes, with one song lasting 19 minutes.
In a similar vein to their recordings, their set is a flowing linear performance, where each track blends into the next (the band rarely stop playing throughout), rising and falling into shamanic trance-inducing climaxes.
The band’s female member Kgomotso Mokone sways to the beat of her tambourine and her silken and soulful vocals offsets Nkosi’s frenzied chanting. Meanwhile, bassist Mosebetsi Nzimande purses his lips, eyes closed and shakes his head in time, and the other members rock and jig, with one occasionally one hip-bumping Zithulele, who jumps and shakes throughout. To watch the band and experience their performance is akin to religious ecstasy.
Between songs, Zithulele encourages the crowd embrace a parent’s affection, and to say “I love you” more to our mothers and fathers. A charismatic storyteller, he recounts how the spirits of our relatives are always with us.
Elsewhere, a dedicated moment of silence for the ancestors doesn’t resonate as well with the 1am heavily inebriated crowd as it did at 4pm on a Sunday at Green Man festival, where I saw them the other week. However, the classic favourite of any touring musician to encourage the audience to get down and back up again for the chorus, and start a mosh pit goes down a treat.
They end on Yinde, meaning ‘The Road’, symbolising the journey towards a more equal South African society. Addictive bass lines, pounding percussion, ethereal and feverish vocals swell to a thrilling conclusion.
Arms outstretched, like a preacher, Zithulele declares “this music is made to heal.” Certainly, by the end of the show, everyone is feeling a little more free.