FAKA are notoriously difficult to pin down.
They are both artists and the art themselves. To say nothing of their gender-eluding styling, intent or aesthetic, the music they produce and the styles represented in their tracks are just as defiant of definition.
Early releases like ‘Ama Gwinya‘ (creatively described by the duo as an “afro mink luxury dove soap bar lamentation”, “post gospel pain” and “phallic chino sweat drop”) surfaced three years ago with dislodged arpeggios, bubbling soundscapes and disembodied vocals all providing an ethereal bed for their spoken musings.
FAKA’s later work on African artistic collective NON, advanced both the drone and looping approaches established earlier, and pushed them towards danceability with driving drum tracks, and more rhythmic chanting in the place of spoken word.
With this turn towards heavier rhythms, the exploratory nature of their early material wasn’t lost, just re-focussed, with the new sounds deployed as tools to further their cause. If the drum-heavy sections on the opening track of their Bottom’s Revenge EP seemed like a concession of some sort, the 18-minute spirit walk of the EP’s very next track, ‘Bottoms Revenge: Ibutho Lamakhosazana’, quickly made one realise that no compromise had been made here. Each element was chosen and executed at the highest fidelity to FAKA’s vision.
This week, FAKA released ‘Uyang ’Khumbula’, a new single that heads further down the path towards outright danceability. The production here eschews the drone elements entirely and takes the N3 to Durban with a perfect and modern GQOM romp. The vocal parts appropriately lean on sounds from the region, with the chant-rapping style Durban house made famous in the late 2000s featuring prominently.
The now-ubiquitous Distruction Boyz blueprint underpins much of the production, with more prominent synth work marking this song as underground-leaning, but the real stars here are FAKA themselves. The disaffected singing is catchy and club-ready, but the surprising falsetto flourishes in between the vocals add a much-appreciated flourish. Also, the Mike Jones-esque come up story presented in the lyrics is at once witty and reflective.
Anyone who has seen any members of FAKA out, especially Fela Gucci, will know that a lot of the sounds pulled into this single have been a staple of their DJ sets for months now. The question was always going to be how these nocturnal and unmistakably gqom and house sounds would be incorporated into their previous, almost meditative work. ‘Uyang ‘khumbula’ gives us both the answer, and the formula for that.
If you haven’t already, take a listen to FAKA’s debut EP, released on NON Worldwide, which you can listen to here.