Goodie. The melting pot is melting. The fusions are fusing. The genres are a gemeng of intentions and great music keeps reinventing itself.
This time it’s some boys from Fokof, some totally new talent, and a lifelong intention to tell the truth, even if it’s dirty and dark and it smells like linoleum. aKING are aptly titled for their confident mix of sadness, majesty and expression. And while everyone is talking about ‘uniqueness’ and ‘commercial accessibility’, and achieving neither, aKING are achieving both.
So what’s the formula?
They might just turn around to us and say they followed the music, but it feels like they’ve taken the best elements of Rock’s last four decades and spun it into catchy melodies to create an irresistibly positive and powerful sound that doesn’t jilt you at the door of reality.
Charisma comes to mind. We’re no strangers to charisma, of course. aKING's brothers in arms boast the reticent Francois with his wry appeal, and the hyperhappy Wynand (Van Coke Kartel) has the guys and gals tearing at their undies when he leaps around on stage and smiles like he means it (he does). Let's not get onto dark prince Kruger hiding behind his dark fringe and enigmatic smile. And when Leroy Nel (from Foto Na Dans) lets loose, it’s all catharsis and cataclysms rivalled only by Alex's acrobatics with that trumpet. And, sigh, have you seen Sannie Fox from Mamma Know Nothing? You want to have her babies, too, don’t you? There are more, but I'm getting all hot under the collar. These music makers have bodies with charisma; they move, and the earth moves, they’re still and you can’t move. But this one is a little different. Before you even get a chance to take it all in, he sings, and you swoon because Laudo’s VOICE has charisma. It’s gravely and emotional. His vocals are gritty, resonant and full-bodied, shot through with an underlying slenderness that injects vulnerability and credibility into the assertive overtones. And I’ll be damned if his singing doesn’t deliver us into sensation. (And THEN you can look down, and say, 'ja, en hy's darem mooi, ne?')
But keeping our feet on the ground (where they are) and our eyes and ears on heaven, it has to be said that aKING's is anthem material. Sung in English by Afrikaans men, vowels are sharpened and vernacular is remarkably remixed. The lyrics are epic, upending tradition without upsetting it, redefining and reclaiming religious rhetoric, giving it back to the people as liberated mantras. I think that’s what god always wanted, somehow. It’s heavy with irony in an age light-headed from reality. The music is noble, energetic and capable. It lifts the senses, and leaves the lyrics to plum the depths of desire and hope, and transformation.
Did they hit number one on MK 89’s Top Ten days after they launched Dutch Courage just because they’ve got famous boys from Fokof in their band? I believe if you listen to the album you’ll agree that the answer to that is a resounding NO. There's a lot more to them, and there's a lot more to come.
They’re on tour now promoting the debut album. Catch them in a dark bar or a dorpie near you.
Laudo Liebenberg – lead guitar, vocals
Hennie Van Halen – Bass, Backing Vocals, Tambourine
Jaco “Snakehead” Venter -Drums, Backing vocals
Hunter Kennedy – Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals