When it comes to Afro-pop, the concomitant discussion of appropriation is nearly unavoidable. That’s unfortunate, as it’s often a distraction. Luckily, John Wizards — a Capetown-based band composed of five white South Africans and one black Rwandan transplant, the vocalist Emmanuel Nzaramba — sidestep this problem with their multiracial composition and uncompromising commitment to the creative process. And what a creative process it is.
John Wizards’ apparent musical genius composer is John Withers, who, with the band’s self-titled debut (released by Planet Mu), creates a sort of schizophrenic musical soiree, with the all the best of African music invited. Dancing and swirling his listeners through the multi-room party, Withers moves, sometimes effortless, sometimes discordantly, in and out of various distillations of Afro-pop (bits of Congolese rumba brush against the synths of abstract electronica, African folk musical structures give way to jangly Afro-jazz guitar, while soul, reggae, and funk all continuously pop their heads in). It’s some of the most frenetic and joyful and refreshing music I’ve heard in a long time. To see and hear what I mean, just watch and listen to the animated video for “Lusaka By Night” above.
STREAM: John Wizards – “Lusaka By Night”