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The Healing Nick Roseblade , June 6th, 2019 10:16

The third album by Soweto seven-piece BCUC sees them collaborating with Femi Kuti and Saul Williams to exhilarating effect, finds Nick Roseblade

BCUC, Bantu Continued Uhuru Consciousness, are a melting pot of styles. The Soweto septet combine Zulu traditions, blaring trumpets, choral singing, mbaqanga groove and malombo swing along with hip-hop sensibilities, jazz improvisations and a punk swagger that have created a trilogy of albums that have an unabashed bounce to them, with socially conscious lyrics. The final part of this trilogy, The Healing, is the strongest and shows the band have only really started to find their voice and rhythm.

The Healing is an incredibly immediate album. It grabs you from the dynamic opening. The first thing you hear is a catchy, wonky bassline. This isn’t by chance. Mosebetsi Jan Nzimande is the engine of the band. His riffs are infectious and inventive. As they twist and turn the other members of the group slowly fall in until ‘The Journey with Mr. Van Der Merwe’. A vibrant and pulsating beast, it skews and turns along at breakneck speed until a vocal break slows it down. This change of tempo is important as it shows that BCUC can hit that sweet spot, even when they aren’t playing 100 miles per hour and that Nzimande’s is still the driving force behind it. When the pace is picked up, it is more hypnotic and trance-like. Guttural vocals are traded over the scatter shot drumming and that unrelenting bassline.

If the opening track showcased BCUC’s collective chops, the following two show their ability to play with others. The standout moment of The Healing is ‘Sikhulekile’. Like ‘The Journey with Mr. Van Der Merwe’, it is a lesson in getting locked into a rhythmic groove of solos and improvisations, but it’s the inclusion of Femi Kuti that really takes it to another level. When Kuti’s saxophone joins the party it takes it to the next level. Opening with Kuti soloing is a strong choice, but as with ‘The Journey with Mr. Van Der Merwe’, it shows who the star is. After Kuti’s opening salvo, operatic vocals glide over a twitchy riff and mournful horn shrieks. The final song is ‘Isivunguvungu’ and rapper-poet Saul Williams delivers some sage advice about having a good soul. Despite being fifteen mins shorter than the previous two songs, it packs the same punch, due to tight rhythms and those unyielding basslines.

Despite only featuring three tracks The Healing is full of massive bass riffs, polyrhythmic drumming and glorious vocals. BCUC are most devastating when they get locked in the groove and just run with it. Their secret weapon is Nzimande. His bass riffs are the centre of every song, making them feel unstoppable and intoxicating. The downside to The Healing is that once the band get locked into the groove, that’s pretty much it. Yes there are solos here and there, but sonically the song stays the same and the vocals get a bit lost in the maelstroms that BCUC create. Still, maelstroms like these are always exhilarating to get lost in.