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South African Group Melds Diverse Tastes

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, September 21, 2009

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The four members of the adventurous South African band BLK JKS (pronounced Black Jacks) first got together in a rehearsal room one day in 2000 in Johannesburg — and played their first show the following day, about 11 hours out of town.

“I was never told anything — just, ‘Bring your drums,’ ” the group’s Tshepan Ramoba recalls with a laugh. “It was a good experience. We were just playing stuff we love to hear together that we love to listen to.

“At the time I was playing with a big band, with the music written out and everything. With this band, we just started jamming; Mpumi (Mcata) would play something on the guitar, then I’d play along and the other guys would join in. It’s the way we all wanted to play music.”

After building a multi-racial audience and honing its kinetic sound in its homeland, BLK JKS was brought to the U.S. in 2008 by producer Diplo, and its released an EP (“Mystery”) and a full album, “After Robots,” while receiving positive notices in Rolling Stone magazine and other outlets. “After Robots” even brought BLK JKS to the American heartland, recording in Bloomington, Ind., with Secret Machines’ Brandon Curtis producing.

“It was cold,” Ramoba, 26, recalls, “but the biggest difference was going from Johannesburg, which is a big city, to Bloomington. At first we were like, ‘Come on! Why would they do that to us?’ Then we got there, and it was a cool experience. We loved it.

“So after the first couple of weeks, we were supposed to go back to New York. Our manager thought that’s what we’d want, ’cause we knew more people in New York and were more city boys, you know? But we were like, ‘Nah, we’ll stay in Bloomington.’ That’s how much we liked it.”

BLK JKS and Sean Bones perform Tuesday (Sept. 22) at the Pike Room in the Crofoot, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call (248) 858-9333 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.

Web Site: www.thecrofoot.com

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