Kasi Punks – An interview with Soweto Tribal Rockers Shameless
blunt correspondent Nathan Levinrad interviewed the self-described Soweto Tribal Rock band Shameless to talk about the band’s history, the rock scene in Soweto and what’s next for the band.
Words by Nathan Levinrad.
My introduction to Shameless was at Boogie Central’s That 70s Fest last month. The three-piece who describe themselves as a Soweto Tribal Rock delivered an intense, high octane set that scratched an itch I didn’t know I had.
Shameless is a seamless fusion of local sounds such as maskandi and kwaito with the raw energy of punk, blues and the loud brashness of thrash metal. The local influence can be heard in the call-and-response heavy vocals shared by the guitarist Musa Zwane and drummer Rock Ruler. The result is impactful and unique.
The band was founded in 2018 by Musa, Rock and bassist Thabang Khonje who wasted no time gaining recognition by winning Afropunk Johannesburg’s 2019 Battle of The Bands competition. The prize was a slot on Afropunk’s prestigious stage at Constitution Hill.
Shameless is a seamless fusion of local sounds such as maskandi and kwaito with the raw energy of punk, blues and the loud brashness of thrash metal.
I caught up with the band to ask what they have been up to since, the challenges of the pandemic, their involvement with the local rock scene in Soweto and a legal dispute with Converse and what’s next for the band.
Nathan Levinrad: How did you guys meet and what inspired you to start Shameless?
Musa: We knew each other from a local jam session. We ended up jamming for a while before we even formed a band, we composed 4 x 4 and then we saw the reaction from the people, that’s when we decided to give the band a name.
Who are some of the local bands from Soweto that inspired your musical career?
Musa: There are many local bands that inspired us to pursue and follow the sounds, From the likes of Sakhile, BCUC, Urban Village, Reeburth and Automatic to mention a few. Bands that introduced our ears to new sounds and scapes. Nonetheless we created and pushed our sound.
What have been some of the band’s highlights since winning Afropunk’s battle of the bands in 2019?
Musa: There have been a lot after being crowned the winners of Battle of the Bands. It pushed us more, to see most people following the sound and one of the greatest highlights is releasing a whole EP and making 3 music videos independent with very little help. But we very grateful for these 5 years
Tell me about the Soweto rock scene and the relationship to the skate scene in Soweto?
Thabang: The rock scene is growing every day in Soweto. Five years ago we had two or three rock ‘n roll bands that were known around the hood and now I can mention close to six bands that have emerged from Soweto. Skating has always been part of the movement from dodging taxis, and cars and holding on to the back of the bus while skating. Pumping the adrenaline has always been our thing so much that the guys at Others Concept store decided to build a skatepark from scratch with nothing but donations amongst ourselves and the community around Dube, it was obviously not easy but with the collective effort we created a safe space and made it possible for everyone to come skate and enjoy the rock n roll in Soweto.
“The rock scene is growing every day in Soweto. Five years ago we had two or three rock ‘n roll bands that were known around the hood and now I can mention close to six bands that have emerged from Soweto. Skating has always been part of the movement from dodging taxis, and cars and holding on to the back of the bus while skating.” – Thabang Khonje, Shameless.
The pandemic has been a hard time for everyone in entertainment, what are some of the challenges you faced?
Thabang: The biggest challenge we faced as a band during the pandemic was the fact that we couldn’t meet. For us meeting and creating music is like the air we breathe, so not being able to make or perform music literally felt like someone was waterboarding us for real. The second challenge we faced was financial since we all have families and children of our own to look after support and take care of. We were never prepared for such a storm to hit. It was really hard in simple terms. It was depressing for Shameless and our families constantly thinking about a situation you can’t even escape. It was hard. We are grateful none of our close family members lost their lives during the pandemic
I read about the legal dispute between you and Converse, Joe Publicity and Spitfire in an article published in 2020. There was allegedly copyright infringement against you. Has that been resolved?
Thabang: The Issue Between Shameless, Joe Public and Spitfire Film was resolved gracefully and we can say on our part we are happy with how everything was handled and resolved. There’s literally no bad blood between us and those entities. We are actually looking forward to doing more campaigns and projects with them in the near future. We would advise any artist to educate themselves more when it comes to copyright law.
Who are some of the bands you’ve played with that you’d like to shout out and which bands would you like to play with in the future.
Rock: We’ve had a great start to the year, we’ve shared the stage with the best in the industry these past months. Shout out to The Tazers, Jackson Colt, BCUC, TOUGH GUY, Slippery When Wet, ATFN, Khuli Chana, Caution Boy, etcetera, DrainBrain Experience, and Black Math. Just a list of explosive shows, man and we are so thankful for the opportunity, We would like to share the stage with Desmond and The Tutus, Fokofpolisiekar, Hell Cats, Southern Gypsy Queen, Volvodinya and BLK JKS.
You guys have released a number of singles, are there any plans to release a full-length album?
Rock: Yes, we are planning on releasing another single and a music video soon no later than the end of winter. And at least 1 or 2 singles before our full-length album which we are planning on releasing later this year around December.
“We’ve had a great start to the year, we’ve shared the stage with the best in the industry these past months. Shout out to The Tazers, Jackson Colt, BCUC, TOUGH GUY, Slippery When Wet, ATFN, Khuli Chana, Caution Boy, etcetera, DrainBrain Experience, and Black Math. ” – Rock Ruler, Shameless.
When are you performing next?
Rock Ruler: We have a couple of shows lined up for this month, one in Chaf Pozi on the 28th of May, and Soweto Towers later this month. We are planning on a mini Durban tour next month from June 16th till the 20th, and Cape Town around August. But you can follow Shameless Band SA on all our social media platforms for our gig guide.