Feature

Tshepang Ramoba’s Sello is a divine tribute to Sello Montwedi

Known for his role in local alt-rock outfit BLK JKS, Tshepang Ramoba’s latest solo project Sello is an emotional outpouring paying tribute to the late Sello Montwedi, esteemed drummer of the legendary Sankomota.

Sello also translates to “a cry” in Sepedi, carrying a dual significance for Ramoba. “I wrote this whole project in one day,” he tells me, “I realised that my purpose in life is to try heal people using music, and that’s what the first song is about.”

Titled “Re Romilwe,” the track is a rhythmic blending of West African-inspired melodies and driving, indie-rock bass lines. BLK JKS’s lingering influence is tangible, but renewed with Ramoba’s enduring appreciation for his musical heritage.

“One day I wrote a song and I told myself, ‘Sello Montwedi is the only artist that can do justice to this’,” says Ramoba. “He was quite sick at the time but about two weeks later he drove up to Johannesburg to mentor me, and the rest is history.”

Tracks “Nako” and “Bana Ba Motho” feature a drumming style that is distinctly reminiscent of Bra Sello. Speckled with dusty malombo drums, fluttering woodwind and meaty brass, these songs are Ramoba’s ode to the past; his celebration of the sounds that made him the artist he is today.

“Artists these days forget where they come from,” says Ramoba. “You know in my early twenties, I was with BLK JKS at SXSW, and we heard that there was a surprise act but we had no idea who it was,” he continues.

“Suddenly Lou Reed came out and played two of my favourite songs. When he was done performing he came back stage and told me that I should never stop making music. He watched me perform and honestly that day changed my life.”

These tinges of classic, sometimes grunge rock can certainly be felt amidst Ramoba’s spiky rhythmic compositions, making for a brilliantly diverse four-track offering.

Ramoba ends off our conversation telling me about the spiritual elements of his music, which are perhaps paramount. “I really want people to use these songs as a kind cleansing tool for the soul. Whether it’s after meditation, prayer, chanting or just during a moment in the day, we need to be aware that we are living.”

Alive with a frenetic and passionate energy, Sello is more than just a cry. It’s a divine hammer, a loud bang announcing the existence of a world between worlds.