PE band Ikati Esengxoweni are headed for the big time

Traditional urban music earns Lark Wantu and Anam Manyati a ticket to major Jo’burg festival

Port Elizabeth urban traditional band Ikati Esengxoweni will perform at Afropunk Johannesburg Festival on December 30 and 31 after winning the festival’s Battle of the Bands competition this month.
The Afropunk festival revolves around an influential youth community of all backgrounds who are interested in creative arts.The festival originated in Brooklyn in 2005, and is held in London, Paris, Brooklyn, Atlanta and Johannesburg annually. It debuted in SA in 2017, boasting a star-studded lineup of national and international acts including Anderson.Paak and The Free Nationals, Laura Mvula, Thebe, Sho Madjozi, and attracting some 2000 revellers.
On the 2018 line-up are The Internet, Public Enemy, Thandiswa, Kwesta, Thundercat, Kaytranada, Flying Lotus and others.
The band entered the competition, which was open to bands all around the country, and were narrowed down to the top eight. The eight bands were invited to battle it out in Johannesburg where Ikati Esengxoweni won alongside Durban’s Red Robyn.
“It was crazy when we won, especially because last year’s [Battle of the Bands] competition wasn’t open to bands from outside Jo’burg,” Lark Wantu said.
The prize is a platform for the band to perform at the contested festival, a distribution deal with Africora, a clothing and footwear deal with Palladium Boots as well as a wardrobe and on-stage clothing deal with Edgars brands Free2BU and JX..
“We had no idea there was more than just a performance platform to the prize, it was only revealed when we were there that there were these deals too,” Lark said.
The past year has been good for the pair. In December 2017, they performed in Barcelona at the New Year’s eve Primavera Concert. The band was the main act at the Mamela Arts Festival at the PE Opera House in September. This, after they evidently did a stellar job opening for MXO, last year’s main act.
Their song Ting Ting was featured on season 3, episodes 3 and 4 of the South African drama series Lockdown on Mzansi Magic.
“We were approached by [series producer] Mandla N to say he had heard our music and wanted to use it on Lockdown,” Wantu said.
Ikati Esengxoweni is known for their urban traditional sound in which they often fuse several music genres.
The band was formed in 2016, after Wantu and Anam Manyati met at a festival they were both performing in separately and the rest was history.
“Everything was just organic from there but we officially became Ikati Esengxoweni when we performed at Roof Garden Bar in Central in 2016,” Wantu said.
The pair have since made waves in the Bay and outside, performing at events like Things We Do eTown, the Summer Solstice concert, the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and the Alliance Française’s Fête de la Musique in Johannesburg.
Not only have the pair earned dedicated fans in their hometown but they have created a name for themselves nationally – and internationally.
“When we went to Johannesburg for Afropunk Battle of The Bands, we were also booked for another event to perform at while we’re there,” Manyati said.
The pair is managed by Josh Georgiou who managed the late music legend Hugh Masekela.
With all the national and international attention they have commanded with their unique sound, Ikati Esengxoweni are foreseeing a relocation to Johannesburg in 2019, prior to recording their upcoming album.
“We’ve performed our hearts out in PE but there is no growth for artists here. It’s a great place for nurturing artists but it’s very limiting, I mean, how can there be the same ‘developing artists’ for 10 years?” Manyati said.
“A lot of things are happening in Jo’burg for us and we can’t be flying in and out all the time, but we’ll probably come back home every now and then to ease down and for some inspiration,” she said.
So far the pair has no confirmed gigs in PE for the festive season.
Ikati Esengxoweni are also in the running for the ESPAfrika Young Legends competition for a chance to perform at the next Cape Town Jazz Festival.
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