Ancestral music group Sun Xa Experiment is ‘a voice for the silent’

Image by Ben Moyo

Sun Xa Experiment
is a six-person band that started in 2014 in the heart of Jozi. Made up of Buyisiwe Njoko (lead vocals), Tebogo Mkhize (acoustic guitar), Lerato Seitei (electric guitar), Benedict Watte (percussion), Musa Zwane (bass), Siphiwe Mgidi (drums), the collective is known for their experimental sound, which they describe as world ancestral music, fusing kwaito, jazz, gqom, rock and more. The band doesn’t necessarily seek to be different however their style of music has benefitted from its rich and sonically diverse band, creating a spiritual whirlwind of sounds, nostalgic yet unique enough to be their very own.

I talk to Sun Xa Experiment ahead of Basha Uhuru 2018, where they will hit the stage and say fans should expect to move and be moved by their performance.

Image by Ben Moyo

Who is Sun Xa? Ni dume ngani (What are you best known for)?

Sun Xa is an ancestral world music band that stands as a voice for the silent. Sidume ngomculo wethu we sintu, o pholisayo. (We are best known for our music, that heals).

Where does the name Sun Xa come from and what does it mean?

The name comes from “Sun” – Ilanga – and “Xa” (meaning “out” in Khoisan lingo). It is drawn from the essence of who we are, and where we come from as African children, a portion of history and the present.

How would you describe your style of music?

Our music has become so broad and it’s as though we’ve almost invented our own unique sounds. We have gqom, kwaito, trap, digital maskandi, et cetera. We would describe the sound as ancestral music but we like to leave it up to the listener to decide for themselves. Some would describe it as afro jazz, others say we are avant-garde. But we prefer “world ancestral music”.

You all know each other from the hip-hop scene. Should we expect some hip-hop music from the group in the future?

Our sound is experimental and we have songs in our archives that dwell within that type of sound. Anything is possible, as long as it keeps the people inspired.

How did you transition from hip-hop to the type of music you’re producing now? 

The transition is due to growth and getting exposed to a wide range of sounds such as the likes of Sun Ra, baba Ndikho Xaba and the late mama Busi Mhlongo. It has taken a lot of growing up during the 2014 to 2018 period, so we would say we have grown into what people need as well as finding a solid sound.

What does being a part of Basha Uhuru mean to you?

A lot because, for the first time in three years, we are performing in Joburg and Basha Uhuru is the one stage we have always wanted to share our music on. We are all looking forward to connecting with the Basha Uhuru crowd. Nothing beats touching a soul during a performance, that, for us is the one thing we are genuinely looking forward to and, of course, getting on the Basha Stage for the first time.

The festival is homage to the youth of 1976. What important issues do you think young people of today should be tackling?

One big issue that bothers us is the growing number of violence in the country. Women are killed, and children are being abused every single day.  Men have resorted to violence as a way of solving problems. Through songs like Waf’Umuntu, which we will perform and in which we touch on those issues. We must be the change we want to see.

What does Youth Month mean to you and how are you commemorating it?

The youth is the future. Youth Month, to us means to take the bulls by its horns like the youth of 1976. Youth Month means to never be afraid to take bold steps towards the right directions and influencing the ones that come after us. The art form we produce is a commemoration in its own right, we aim to pay positivity forward.

This article was originally published on Basha Uhuru.