Mzansi Music Fridays: Meeting FreshlyGround
August 31, 2012
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This week’s Mzansi Music Friday post is inspired by a contribution from my first guest blogger, Dutch journo Ellen van Ree, who shares her experience of meeting South Africa’s own FreshlyGround.


Before writing this post I must admit, I hadn’t listened to FreshlyGround in a while and I’d kind of forgot just how awesome they are. Honestly, they’ve become fairly mainstream and I’m not a fan of  watching gigs in casino theatres, where FreshlyGround  seem to be playing most of their SA gigs these days (Side note to promoters, please bring FreshlyGround to cool venues!).

Last night I youtubed some FreshlyGround videos and fell in love with them all over again. Listening to FreshlyGround just makes you feel good!  This video is of one of my favourite FreshlyGround tracks – Pot Belly. Having a bit of a beer boep myself, I can relate 🙂

For those non-South Africans reading this who’ve never heard of FreshlyGround,  this review sums up the band’s sound nicely:

“Their music is easy to like, covering a feel-good spectrum of distinctly South African pop, led by Zolani’s exuberant vocals, in English and Xhosa, and driven by an experienced and well-honed band. Mothers pushing prams in shaded parks will like it; sweaty people in stampvol taxis will like it, drunk students too. And it’s also great when you are alone. It’s bright and happy no matter whether your feet are plodding the grim streets of London or your head is stuck in a gnarly roll of post-breakup-chicken wire. Sure, you’ll like it too.”

-Toast Coetzer – Die Beeld, November 2004

You have to see FreshlyGround live to really appreciate them. I’ve seen then perform numerous times and they never disappoint. My favourite show was at the fantastical House on Fire in Swaziland in 2005, where I basically had to sneak into an oversold venue! The house was on FIRE!!

So here’s Ellen’s Mzansi music experience…


Meeting Freshly Ground

It all started with a gift. Some years ago, my good friend W visited me with a wrapped-up CD from South Africa. We share the same fascination and love for Africa (read South Africa), even the music has entered our genes.  Mali, Ivory Coast, Tanzani, Senegal, Zaire,Togo, the whole continent lives in my music collection.

“Listen to this, you’ll get hooked, just as me. I saw their concert in Amsterdam lately. Wanted to surprise you with a ticket, but it was sold out. The group is called FreshlyGround”.

For me a tongue-tying name, but from the first time I put the cd in the player I became fascinated, a fan, a rhythm junkie. Musically speaking, it was an eye-opener for me!

Freshly Ground CD

Freshly Ground CD

There’s something in the voice of Zolani that thrills me, gives me goosebumps, touches my heart. I feel the same way when I listen to Senegalese singer Thione Seck. What do FreshlyGround and Seck  have in common?

Truth be told, I have no clue what they sing about, some lyrics are total  abracadabra to  me (not the ones in English of course!). Can you understand I am a champion in phonetic  Xhosa  singalong?  Doobie doobie doobie Aaaaaaieee…

Fact number. 2:  I’ve never in my life seen FreshlyGround and Thion Seck  live on stage. Feels like a gap. But then that all changed, with a big thanks to the Internet.

To start, I gave a thumbs up and liked FreshlyGround on FaceBook to get  their  latest news. I also searched if the group had a Twitter account, like me. Yoh! \o/

So from my home in Holland I followed their adventures all over the world. And every time I visited SA, I did neurotic last-minute shopping at the music store at Joburg airport, searching for their latest album…

Last December I had to fly for business to Capetown. I googled and googled and… lucky me. FreshlyGround was having  a concert at the ICC!!! All I had to do was to stay 4 days longer. So I changed my ticket,  extended my hotel room booking. No big punishment, great deal to see FG live!

A Capetonian friend arranged tickets, and there I was, finally. It was a great performance, but I was glued to a chair in the ICC… I was a little disappointed 🙁  I prefer dancing on their music.

But…I got a raincheck last August.  Zolani confirmed with a tweet the date: the 7th of August. Amsterdam, in one of my favourite venues: De Melkweg. No posh atmosphere there, dark, wooden floor, no chairs (!) hot and sweaty ambiance. Ideal for concerts.

FreshlyGround Amsterdam

FreshlyGround in Amsterdam

After their awesome concert, I queued up in the long line, in front of the CD-signing and merchandising point. And then, there she was – this vocal energy bomb with that awesome voice and great dance moves:  Zolani! My moment.

Suddenly very shy, I reached out my hand and said: ‘Hi, my name is Ellen van Ree, we know each other digitally, from Twitter’… a Click! She knew! A big smile, a huge hug, and a personally signed cd…. My memories of this in real life meeting.

And photo’s, ofcourse.  Yeah people, the powerrr of Twitterrrrrr !

a hug from Zolani


About Ellen van Ree:
Ellen is a Dutch journalist specialising in writing about travel for lifestyle and MICE magazines. She is passionate about Mzansi and is fascinated by the African continent.  Ellen contacted me via this blog two weeks back with a lovely email saying that she also works in tourism and the shared my love for Mzansi.  She mentioned that she’d just seen Freshly Ground I replied back and asked Ellen if she’d be interested in writing a guest post for me.  Check out her blog 1000x Africa. or find her on Twitter @1000xAfrika / @EllenvanRee



 Do you have any special moments where you’ve met your favourite band? Share them in the comments below!

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Meruschka Govender

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There is 1 comment

  • […] During the past 6 years  I’ve got to see amazing artists from all over Africa and the world just by hopping across the border to Swaziland. A few of my musical highlights of BushFires past include  Hugh Masekela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Aly Keita, Ayo, MiCasa, Habib Koite, Vusi Mahlasela, Dobet Gnahoré, Thandiswa, Habib Koite, and Freshly Ground. […]

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