Zulu Spear formed in the 1980s and grew to become one of the most respected World music Dance bands – performing Afro-Pop and South African Roots music and playing traditional mbaqanga rhythms and harmonies using modern electric instruments, percussion and horns. The band dissolved in the ‘90s, but after about an almost 20-year hiatus, Zulu Spear regrouped with five of the original members – including the two founding members, Gideon Bendile and Morgan Nhlapo and Mill Valley-based guitarist and singer Matt Lacques – on board. Zulu Spear plays at the Fenix on June 11 and on June 18 at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Boonville.
Can you tell us a little bit about the album, Dancing in the Jungle?
The new CD features two fresh tracks that we’re really excited about that the current band has recorded and produced, “Pray” and “Dancing In The Jungle.” It also has tunes from our catalogue, that has all of the original band playing on them. Gideon, Sechaba (the band founder, may he rest in peace) and myself wrote a song called “Magwala” that is a mainstay of our live performances and we’re excited about releasing that one, too. “Calling The Hearts” and “Come Over To Our House” were written during the time we were touring the country getting to meet thousands of people and hoping that they’ll see the world through the Zulu Spear prism: focusing on justice, peace and unity.
You’ve played at London’s West End, Las Vegas, and venues throughout California. What is your most memorable performance?
We played so many fun, crazy, and out there gigs – The Greek Theatre, The Warfield with The Neville Brothers, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, Lincoln Center and The Ritz in NYC, and a Bingo Parlor in Houston Texas with King Sunny Ade. But the best performance was playing as part of the Nelson Mandela‘s appearance at The Oakland Coliseum. After all the benefit appearances and rallies, it was a homecoming for the whole Bay Area, which led the way in the divestment movement.
Why should people give worldbeat a shot if they haven’t already?
I think people have been listening to world beat music their whole lives, maybe they just don’t know it. The rhythms of Africa have affected American, Latin, and European music since day one. From Louis Armstrong to Glenn Miller, The Beach Boys to Santana, there’s a reason why people are swaying their hips! Worldbeat is a direct connection between contemporary African and American musicians making music on the spot. And the whole hip-swaying thing is good, in case you’ve never tried it.
What is your message?
Zulu Spear’s message is PEACE!
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Promoting Peace.”