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Urban Village’s new EP, UBABA, paints an evocative picture of Soweto

Urban Village have something incredible going for them within their musical scope. Four black musicians from Soweto, born and raised at the tail-end of apartheid joined forces a couple of years ago to put their experiences to sound. 

They spin a beautiful modern, yet deeply traditional Afro-pop sound, marrying the daily experiences of black South Africans with Zulu influence and contemporary melody. The result is a visceral and deeply moving narrative of the people. UBABA comes as their debut release for Parisian label Nø Førmat! and takes this one step further in solidifying their sound among a wider audience.

Jangling guitar meets earthy, layered vocals in opener “Ubaba”, which comes along with a beautifully shot rendering of daily life in one of the many hostels of Soweto which housed black male South Africans throughout the 1900’s as they worked in the city mines. It’s a picture of beauty amid the heartbreak: of community and the close-knit bonds forged between people in the same boat, of celebration for the small things in life. 

Following on in an experimental vein, “Izivunguvungu” pairs mbira (African thumb piano) melody with an off-kilter synth beat, while “Sakhisizwe” is a rousing call of celebration, stacked with earthy percussion and choral vocals – before a cruising urban house remix of “Izivunguvungu” wraps things up with an extended percussion-heavy vibe. 

It’s deeply African, keenly original and a beautiful picture painted of life in the beating heart of Soweto.