Saturday 2 July 2022
Fluid Johannesburg-based collective plays a unique type of avant-garde jazz

What is the most fluid of bands? Perhaps one with no permanent members.

Meet grassroots ensemble SPAZA – a Johannesburg-founded Afro-futurist improv outfit. The idea of SPAZA is to jam around a concept rather than to coalesce into a fully-fledged band.

They are an open-ended collective with rotating members, featuring musicians with individual and collective links to Johannesburg’s jazz, Afro funk and experimental electro scenes.

When you listen to SPAZA you should be ready for just about anything because SPAZA offers a little bit of everything.

Try giving their 2019 self-titled debut album a listen. It’s a wild ride of avant-garde jazz that offers the native inspirations of Johannesburg with the polish and international sheen of Chicago and London.

The ensemble has a fearless approach to improvisation and tonal experimentation. Occupying the space between jazz, modern experimental and traditional African music, SPAZA makes music that sounds like no other music on the planet.

In 2020, the collective made a follow-up recording called UPRIZE! which functions as a soundtrack to a documentary film of the same name. It deals with the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid and captures a mixture of outrage, injustice and hope that resonates powerfully today. The mix of free jazz-referencing improvisations, samples from the film, soulful singing and the general sadness of the mood (it wasn’t a victorious uprising but a bloody one!) is powerful and works wonderfully both with and without the film.

It'll be exciting to see which constellation of SPAZA that will play at Roskilde Festival. Rest assured that you will get a mind-blowing experience with free songs about freedom in the most fluid of sound worlds.