Band set to take on the world at festivals

Ikati Esengxoweni band members, from left, Anam Manyati, Ziphozakhe Macuba, Nkwenkwe Mtila and Sandile Suka Picture:  FREDLIN ADRIAAN
Ikati Esengxoweni band members, from left, Anam Manyati, Ziphozakhe Macuba, Nkwenkwe Mtila and Sandile Suka Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

In the relatively short time they have been together as a band, Ikati Esengxoweni has not only gained a following in Nelson Mandela Bay, but they have already caught the attention of international music directors.

Heading to two international festivals in France and Spain, Ikati Esengxoweni (Cat in a Bag) will be performing at Primavera Pro in Barcelona, Spain, in May as well as at Midem 2017 in Cannes, France, in June.

More than 3500 artists from all over the world will gather in Barcelona for the five-day music conference around the themes of originality as a creative motor, the challenges of artistic independence and the role of change as a catalyst for industry development.

Midem in Cannes, on the other hand, provides a platform for music industry professionals to forge business connections, promote their music at an international level, sign deals, and discover upcoming trends, talent and services likely to shape the future of music.

With their unique eclectic style, dreadlocks and cool look, this five-piece band is not just planning to represent South African culture as a whole, but intend to make their mark to ensure Ikati Esengxoweni is on everyone’s lips once they are done.

But before they leave for their European experience, Ikati Esengxoweni – made up of vocalists Lark Wantu and Anam Manyati, guitarist Nceba Mngolombane, drummer Nkwenkwezi Mtila and bassist Sandile Sukawill – be at ArtEC on April 8 for a one-night concert called Ikati Esengxoweni: Cat with Nine Lives.

Members of the band chatted to Weekend Post about their music and also shared their thoughts on being selected to perform at this year’s National Arts Festival:

When was Ikati Esengxoweni started?
Lark: The band started a year-and-a-half ago after some of the members met at the Primavera workshop in Spain.
After that we decided to perform together.

Have you been known as Ikati Esengxoweni since then?
Lark: In the beginning we would be announced by our individual names. We kind of got tired of that and decided to have a group name which was when the umbrella of Ikati Esengxoweni was born.
It became a movement for talented artists from the Bay to come together and make music as most of us have been doing this individually for a while and are already established in our own right.

How did you come up with the name Cat in a Bag?
Anam: People used to tell us siziKati ezisengxoweni (we’re cats in bags). When you think about it a cat has nine lives, so in essence we will never die; we will continue doing this.
A bag also symbolises mystery because, unless you open it up and look, you never know what you’re going to find.
So the name meant a lot to us and described us perfectly.

How would you describe your sound?
Lark: You could say it’s an alternative sound where everyone brings their own feeling to the music and we’re all self-taught.
It’s alternative, urban traditional, world music and within the band element can be described as performance art where we bring an experience.
When you watch us you’ll take away something through the journey of music and the visual experience.

You recently performed at SA Music Indies Week. What was that experience like?
Lark: Two of our members, Anam and Ludwe, performed on that stage last year, but it was my, Nkwenkwezi’s and Sandile’s first time. It was a beautiful experience.
We met a lot of people – national and international artists – and made a lot of contacts.
The actual directors from the international festivals were there and chose who they wanted to perform at their festivals themselves.
In the week we did courses teaching us how the music industry works, how to sustain yourselves and basically how to get your music out there.

Do you perform your own original songs?
Anam: Prior to joining Ikati Esengxoweni, individually we were performing our own songs. We brought along the songs we already had as solo artists, but also created new music under Ikati. We do raw music, our own, and we don’t even try to do covers.

Do you have an album out?
Anam: In terms of a CD we are still looking for a studio and funding, but we are sure that, by June, we’ll be done with this current project.
We’ve got a couple of links on Youtube for people to listen to our music though. People can follow us on Facebook as well and get updates.

Since Ikati Esengxoweni hasn’t been together for very long, what are the hopes?
Nkwenkwezi: We’d love to get international recognition so we can perform in all corners of the globe and show the world what South Africa is capable of.
Wherever we go, we have to represent where we come from – our roots – and try to teach people through music about ourselves and our heritage.

There are some exciting international festivals coming up, but how do you feel about your upcoming performance on the Fringe at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown?
Anam: We’re very excited because there are some things you wish for as artists and so soon in your career.
We’ve been doing this for a while even though [some] might think we’re new to this music thing. We’re working hard, trying to be better and get the raw music out there that we’ve been working on.

  • Tickets to the concert on April 8 are R70 and will be available at the door. Doors open from 6pm and the show will start at 6.30pm.

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