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The Steezies: Poetry, Socialism and We Are One

George Kirkinis chats upcoming releases, cheeky lyricism and their upcoming society-bridging festival.

9 Mar 2018 / Interview / written by Skye Mallac / Pic by Zoe Cornell

In the ten months since their inception, 8-piece Zulu-funk outfit The Steezies have powered through the Cape Town music scene. With performances at Rocking the Daisies, River Republic, Up the Creek and a forthcoming slot secured at Splashy Fen, the offbeat, cheeky band have swiftly solidified their eccentric presence – and with their debut EP dropping this weekend accompanied by a launch alongside their unsung local heroes, the ride only continues.

“Every single step of the band has just been a massive surprise,” explains George, as we catch up over a coffee alongside a bustling Hout Bay street. “I’m so excited to just go as far as we can.” The band’s local successes thus far have been as a result of a very organic process – as one gig booking led directly to another and simply created a ripple effect in the small, close knit pond which is the Cape Town music scene. Their name stems from a term often used in surf and skate culture but was coined in 1990’s hip-hop artist Gangstar – ‘steez’ – referring to style and ease.

Their debut EP, “Snorting Lines of Turmeric” – which some may dub quirky and others controversial – drops this Saturday with a launch at the Brass Bell alongside the likes Nomadic Orchestra, Grassy Spark, Los Tacos and Ann Jangle. “When your friends are doing so well it shows that it’s possible, and that was massive motivation for me. So all the people involved [In the launch] were at some point musical heroes or idols of mine,” George adds with a close-to-ecstatic grin.

The title stems from a lyric in one of their tracks, ‘Anarchistic Amadeus’, which navigates a tongue-in-cheek poke at the somewhat hedonistic conscious yoga culture which is rife among millenials. That being said however, in spite of their quirky ways, there is a lot of depths which hides behind their tracks. “Lyrics are super important to us,” explains George. “I have my masters in literature and I was a poetry lecturer in India for a while […] There are a lot of literary references in our music – it becomes a bit of a treasure hunt.”

And indeed, from isiZulu rap tracks navigating individuality, to an ode to the vegetarian sausage, there’s no end to the cheeky sincerity of these guys – but sincerity remains deeply at their core and is evident in their latest budding project: the We Are One festival.

With the fundamental aim being to create a festival which will ideally assist in bridging cultural and community boundaries within Cape Town, We Are One will be a one day, free festival held in the Imizama Yethu township in Hout Bay. What began is an idea for a singular gig, after several meetings with community leaders, evolved in scope to become something far greater – with the hope to create a sizable social impact. “I think a lot of people like us – who are of a certain way and aren’t old enough to just accept that this is the way things are – are looking to tear down barriers, you start looking for ways in,” says George.

With a highly limited budget, the event is going to be an almost entirely co-creative and collaborative project, brought to bear simply by the generosity of people who want to make it come together. With respectively significant white-crowd-drawing acts, Imizama Yethu bands, as well as musicians from Hangberg, the aim is to create a space in which cross-cultural barriers – which are still painfully evident in 21st century South Africa – are broken down, allowing for communities to enter one anothers’ space through the shared love for music.

“Maybe there are several reasons why the two [music scenes and communities] have stayed separate,” George muses as he brings up a similar event pioneered by Hugh Masekela in Soweto, which never quite took off. “But I feel that it is our responsibility to do something anyway.”

Tentatively scheduled to take place in September this year, We Are One is driven by a group of forward-thinking, young musicians and creatives who are pushing to do their bit to create the change needed to propel our co-creative scene forward – and the most imperative aspect for the success of the project is to attend.

“[Particularly in our generation] everybody kind of feels like it’s someone else’ responsibility to initiate change,” George concludes as I swirl the dregs of my coffee. “But the fact of the matter is that if you live in this country you are either benefiting from or suffering because of historical circumstances. The fact of you being alive here means that you need to do something about that […] So come support other acts, learn about other music. The success of [the festival] will be based on if people come and make a friend across a boundary they hadn’t accessed before.”

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Check out all the info for The Steezies EP launch.