Babu brings Funk back

By Jane Rosen & Carmen Siegelaar

Pic supplied.

An edgy jazz/classical Indian music quartet visited Grahamstown on its National University Music Tour. Activate gets the scoop of what their music is all about.

When you hear the words ‘classical Indian music’, you expect to space out, because for any non-Indie fans out there that would sound boring. But Babu is anything but boring. They are an exciting, up-and-coming Cape Town jazz quartet that has been together since 2006.

Relatively new on the underground music scene, Babu are not babes in the wood when it comes to talent. Reza Khota, Kesivan Naidoo, Shane Cooper and Ronan Skillen performed in Grahamstown on 17 March as part of their National University Music Tour.

Babu has also been holding workshops for university students in an attempt to revive and inspire young musicians. “There has been such a hunger for young students, and the whole idea behind this tour is for people to benefit from our ideas and to give them new things to think about,” they say.

The band sit huddled together in the corner of a local Grahamstown coffee shop. Despite the chill that tickles the air outside, the energy inside is warm and brilliant. “I hope we can take this music to Mars,” says Kesivan in between sips of tea. “But to the world first,” interrupts Reza, after which they all burst into laughter – something they do a lot. Babu’s unique blending of classical Indian music and jazz has given rise to a refreshing genre of music.

Babu’s debut album, Uproots, deals with the many ways South Africans have been uprooted by their pasts, especially due to our history under apartheid. “Uproots is expressing a feeling of being uprooted physically and psychologically. The music is a way of connecting to roots that are up in the air,” says Reza.

The band records their music during live performance and believes that live music has the power to inspire and invigorate. “Live music is multi-sensory and it inspires one to be a better person,” Kesivan says. When asked what the energy between them on stage was like after they played their first gig in 2006, “immediate synergy” was one of the first responses given by Reza.

“The name Babu comes from the title of respect, babuji, used in India when addressing someone who is in authority or whom one looks up to,” explains Ronan when we inquired about the band’s unique name. Even though the band is relatively new on the mainstream music scene, one gets the feeling that their music has the power to heal, inspire and provide insight into the human soul.

Babu will be playing at the Grahamstown Jazz Festival this year on the 4 July – so keep a look out!

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