When I first opened the link to The Temple’s new EP Lusaka, I was blown away by the effervescence of their music. While the release harkened back to the optimistic beat of 1990’s Kwaito, it’s dense, swirling production is utterly contemporary, clearly in conversation with the hardness of Trap and Gqom. But unlike those intense, often brutally repetitive styles, Lusaka has a playful lightness to it.
Whereas Gqom feels like being sucked into the vortex of some massive storm, The Temple’s work feels like a ray of sun gently falling on your face after the clouds have parted. This sense of uplift is clear even in their earlier, more explicitly hip hop releases, such as their uproarious debut song ‘Ntsango’.
As the group’s Ratshepe Jacky Mopedi sees it, “people say that 90’s kwaito was apolitical, but you can hear the relief about the end of Apartheid in the music”. For Jacky’s bandmate and cousin, Lulamile Kenny Mlambo, digging into the recent past offers a way forward, “we started this group out of a yearning for more diversity in local music. The whole world is looking at Africa now, so we want to give them music with a raw appeal, that speaks to what’s going on in South African society right now.”
The Temple, which features in house production, Paseka Makhubu aka Sghubu Makhubu, likes to play with contrasts. The cover of Lusaka, shows the shack their family built after their grandfather was evicted from his farm in the Free State (their family has since built a house near-by, but has kept the structure in place as a reminder of their painful past of loss and dispossession).
For Jacky, “people see the image and expect to hear struggle music”, but instead experience something uplifting. The band is fully aware of SA’s traumatic past, and its tormented present, but look at culture as a vehicle for social progression – Jacky even used the word “utopian” to describe their approach.
The Temple are a force to watch, bringing a combination of emotional depth and conceptual ambition that sounds absolutely vital.