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Written bySaien Benjamin

Thabo and The Crows take flight with a Self-Titled EP.

Last week saw local multilingual (and one of my favourite Cape Town acts) four-piece Thabo and the Crows released their self-titled four-track EP. Over the 14-minute runtime, they explore a wide soundscape ranging through a multitude of genres from Alternative Folk to heavier Rock sounds, and even a slight NuMetal influence comes through at times. Frontman Thabo Krouwam’s incredible songwriting ability is on full display with his unique ability to tell captivating stories in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. He is backed up by his talented band members with Daniel Paulse on Drums, Faghri Hendricks on lead guitar, and Tyron Barlow-Kearsley on bass. Thabo and the Crows’ diverse sound and the musical synchronicity between the band make for a special and authentically South African sound.

 The EP begins with the steadily building “Molo Sisi ” which begins with driving drums and a sludgy bassline with Thabo’s soaring Xhosa vocals atop. Then in comes Faghri’s shredding lead guitar riff which leads to some incredible interplay between him and Tyron. Following Thabo’s impassioned chorus punctuated by “Molo!” featured artist, Worcester rapper Zee@eez, comes in at around 01:40 with a distinctive and smooth flow and some great humorous bars. After the final chorus ends at 03:15 we get treated to an instrumental crescendo where each instrument gets the chance to shine.

Ek is jy, jy is ek wooah I am you, you are me, my friend We are all the same Longing to find our way Back to one ”

-Thabo and The Crows – Siyalazana

Next comes the bass-driven Tokoloshe which feels like the love child of slick 2000’s Indie Rock acts like Death From Above 1979 and Arctic Monkeys and 80’s South African counter-cultural acts like James Phillips, Johannes Kerkorrel, and Koos Kombuis. The track is built around a beefy bassline, with steady drums and some more great interplay happens with the soaring lead guitar riff. Thabo’s swooning vocals are punctuated by impassioned Xhosa adlibs provide the perfect match. The lyrics are angst-filled and poignant with a real punk attitude even if the song is not necessarily Punk in genre. This Punk ethos is evident throughout the EP through Thabo’s anti-establishment lyrics which find him regularly speaking truth to power. This reminds me of the concept Tyla Burnett explored, in his brilliant recent piece for The CCC, “Punk In The Age Of Doom And Redemption“, of South African acts being Punk in spirit through their counter-cultural and revolutionary messages even if not always Punk in sound, something that Thabo and The Crows are a great example of.

The following track Siyalazana is a lighter more upbeat track with a uniquely South African message of unity. It starts out with a deep, subliminal bass and steadily building drums that create a real sense of anticipation. About 35 seconds in the track’s energy picks up with a flurry of drums and an intricate lead guitar riff, moving into a fun uptempo sound befitting of the track’s uplifting message. Thabo starts of with the opening lines “Ek is jy, jy is ek woah. I am you, you are me, my friend,” which immediately sets the track’s intention. The Xhosa lyrics that follow, “Hey! Siyazalana mama! Umntu Ngumntu Ngabuntu Mhlobo wam,” which translated to English means, “Hey! We are related, mother! A person is a person because of people, My friend, I am, because you are, We have the same wounds,” are a calling for us to recognize our need for camaraderie as South African’s and to recognize our shared experience in spite of our differences

The closing track “Hungry for Change” is a powerful stadium rock anthem with a revolutionary message. Daniel’s tight drumming provides a backbone over which the lead guitar riff soars and the bass guitar riff swoons with angst. Thabo’s passionately yelled vocals are the cherry on top of this anti-establishment track as he takes on corrupt politicians and oppressive structures of power. This track feels like a spiritual successor to the political Rock of  bands like The Clash and Rage Against the Machine and ends the EP off on a powerful note.

This one of the most captivating local releases I have heard this year and is one I have already found myself coming back to many times since it dropped. I am excitedly anticipating what these local legends have to offer for us next and what steps they will be taking in their beautifully unpredictable sonic journey. If you enjoy anti-establishment Rock and Punk bands like Rage Against the Machine, Dead Kennedys, and Fokofpolisiekar, then this EP is one I’m sure you’ll love. Go give “Thabo and The Crows” a listen now on your streaming platform of choice.

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