Fulka
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Fulka

Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa | SELF

Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa | SELF
Band Folk EDM

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"Different folks’ electronic strokes"

Folktronica or electronic folk music, (the self-explanatory and niche genre that fuses folk music with electronica) has etched itself on the musical frame for just more than a decade, with its origins in Europe.

The sound has just found its roots in South Africa thanks to the emergence of the eccentric band Fulka, fronted by Ola Kobak.

With her polish roots, a soulful approach to music and a great team of distinctive musicians, she’s on a pioneering and enriching mission that’s already proving fruitful.

Backing her are her husband, producer and electronic maestro, Jacob Israel; with instrumentalists, Corne Roodt; Christian Henn and Jean-Louise Nel.

Together they belong to a clique of Pretoria artists who are putting out creative and alternative work.

They’ve just released their debut album, The Mystery of the Seven Stars, which is already at No 1 on the Tuks FM (Pretoria University) rock chart. The video to the track Dancing On Our Darkest Days is also enjoying good airplay on the MK TV channel.

The album is melodic, soft, groovy and soulful, but its winning trait is how the two sub-genres, electronica and folk, allow each other space to breathe. The two are equally balanced, providing a lovely synergy.

Lyrically, it’s poetic, mythical and somewhat philosophical and when that meets with Ola’s laid-back voice, the album gives off a moody shade while maintaining a playful side.

The featured artists, the progressive and nuanced trumpeter Marcus Wyatt and Janus van der Merwe from the nu jazz band, Donkey, add to the quality of this product.

Having witnessed some parts of Ola’s music journey, she has noticeably moved from being inhibited to trusting herself and being freer with the music.

Fulka, the name of the band, in its Proto-Germanic context refers to a host of warriors, emphasising the need to fight for something that is true. The album on some level feels like the result of Ola’s fight for something that was true within her musically.

“I started writing when I was 15 and I have always been surrounded by music because my dad was a session musician for many bands, including Lucky Dube. He discouraged me from studying music because he’s seen its hardships in the industry.

“We would perform together at weddings, but I knew I didn’t want to do that for a long time, so we’ve had our clashes. My husband gave me all the tools and taught me most of what I know about music today. I knew from the onset that I did not want to do rock and it was challenging in the beginning, but I’m learning so much more now,” she says.

Producing the album was also a learning curve for Israel, who had to record tons of acoustic instruments for this project.

The last song on the album is a clip of a young Ola reciting Polish rhymes with the help of her grandparents, proving that music has always been in her genes.

Her Polish heritage and her quest to revisit it adds to the emotion of the music Fulka makes.

You’ll get to experience this and more when the band takes to the stage to promote The Mystery of the Seven Stars. There are plans for a national album launch tour starting from the end of March. Prepare for some theatrical shows.

“We’re looking at incorporating lights that trigger the sound and finding electronic ways of making things look nice. But because of the soulful nature of the music, the songs also translate well into an acoustic vibe,” Israel says.

There’s a huge international appeal in their music, so the band is looking forward to taking their sound overseas. But while they’re still here, memorise the name Fulka and catch them when you can. - Kgomotso Moncho - The Pretoria News


"Review: Fulka – The Mystery Of The Seven Stars"

Pretoria, South Africa, is uncannily good at producing incredibly talented musicians that are not afraid to take on unfamiliar genres within our country. Singer-songwriter Ola Kobak is no exception in this regard. She is the beautiful voice behind Fulka, a Pretoria based folktronica act. The word Fulka is derived from a Germanic noun meaning “people” or “army”, ironic as “army” is not something that comes to mind when listening to her sing. Fulka’s debut album is entitled “The Mystery of the Seven Stars” and is definitely something I have been looking forward to.

The album as a whole is incredibly uplifting yet still retains Fulka’s signature peaceful quality. Soft, delicate and melodic, a beautifully fine balance has been crafted between traditional instruments, synthesizers, electronic drums and Ola’s powerful voice. Ola also plays the banjo, piano, accordion and guitar. She is assisted by her husband, Jacob Israel, who brings his many years of experience in building soundscapes using drum beats, vintage synthesizers and solid production. Corné Roodt and Christian Henn also bring a multitude of instruments to this colourful party with Jean-Louise Nel assisting on the viola. The music has strong spiritual themes with several references made to figures from the Bible, composed in such a way that you will find yourself singing along without even realising it.

The hardest part of reviewing an album of this quality is trying to pick tracks that stand out. “Misunderstood” was the first Fulka track that I ever heard and it is still my favourite. Songs like that make you feel like you are listening to the lovechild of Sufjan Stevens and Laura Veirs. “Lazy days in the streets, Rumbling for soft ice cream oh, What a shithole” – it gets stuck in your head! “I Fell When You Spoke” is a hauntingly beautiful track that builds up to some lovely electronic drums with a lo-fi folk feel. The album titled track, “The Mystery of the Seven Stars”, inspired by Revelation 1, showcases the diversity that Fulka has to offer to us all, the goose bumps song if you will.

This is a warm, beautiful and engaging album that stands out for me as one of the finest records – right down to the artwork – produced this year. I implore you to listen to it, love it, buy it and support this phenomenal Pretoria project. The album will be released on 11 October 2010 and will be available at their shows, various stores with good taste as well as a digital download on their website, fulka.bandcamp.com. - by Rick Disco


"Fulka - "The Mystery Of The Seven Stars"

The Mystery of Seven Stars is Pretoria-based but Poland-inspired Fulka's first album. But there's very little of the influence of provincial Snor City that mark this existential journey, dealing with mythical themes of redemption and hope, of fragility and decay. Fulka's drawcard lies in their clever merging of electronica and folk, making not only the often intimidating aural landscape of electronica palatable to listeners, but using it to showcase the complexity inherent to the seeming simplicity of the folk genre. Tracks such as Misunderstood and The Bear Song are particularly good examples of this eclectic marriage, and the juxtapositions continue in the trajectory of struggle which marks most of the songs' lyrics. In fact, thematically the album seems to deal with humanity's inability to understand the paradoxes that undergird their transient stay in an often hostile world. But Fulka never lapses into nihilism or despair – instead there is a sense of light laced through the album, of different, better worlds, or simply of repair of that which is broken. This ties in with the band name, which not only reflects the music's folk strains, but which, interestingly enough, in its original Proto-Germanic context, means host of warriors, emphasizing a need to fight for that which is true. All this could sound as if Fulka take themselves way too seriously, but a sense of the playful and the fun remains, as evidenced by the last track, which consists of leadsinger Ola Kobak's childhood ramblings of Polish folk rhymes. It's somewhat sad that these Polish influences of Kobak's background as first-generation Polish South African are not further explored in the album, but is perhaps something which will come to fruition in later work. All considered, a thoughtful and well executed debut, which should satisfy both electronica enthusiasts and folk aficionados alike, or even just those stumbling on the road less travelled. - Anjou-Marie Gouws


Discography

Tracklisting:

"The Mystery Of The Seven Stars" Debut album released 10 October 2010
To stream full length album, go to http://fulka.bandcamp.com

1. Kawdesh Erest
2. Misunderstood
3. Alphine
4. I Fell When You Spoke
5. Not That We Have Already Attained
6. The Bear Song
7. Tand Pyne
8. Adam
9. Dancing In Our Darkest Days
10. The Mystery Of The Seven Stars
11. Little Ola

Photos

Bio

Fulka is the stage and recording name of folktronica singer-songwriter, Ola Kobak. Ola Kobak was raised in a polish home in Pretoria, South Africa. The name Fulka derives from a germanic noun meaning "people" or "army", it means 'to fight for that which is true'.

Ola was born 19 September 1985. She was raised just outside Pretoria, in Centurion, where her father worked as a full time session musician playing for the likes of Natalie Cole, Lucky Dube, Mango Groove and many musical theatre productions such as Chicago and Hairspray. Her father and mother arrived in South Africa with 50 dollars and no ability to speak English or Afrikaans.

Ola grew up with a background in music starting at the age of four when her grandfather in Poland taught her traditional polish, folk songs and rhymes. Her love for music grew and when she was in primary school, she was playing piano and was in the school orchestra as well as the choir. When she was 13, she sang for Nelson Mandela at the OR Tambo airport (then, the Jan Smuts airport), in a hanger and infront of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund airplane. Ola graduated with a honours degree in Information Design at the University of Pretoria.

After Ola wrote the songs, recorded and did pre-production in her bedroom studio, Jacob Israel from Benjamin Studios in Pretoria recorded, co-produced and mixed the debut album "The Mystery of The Seven Stars in 2010. Alongside Ola is a very veritable army of talent that includes her husband, well known electro maestro Jacob Israel, layering the drum beats, vintage synthesizers and production; multi- instrumentalist Corné Roodt, playing anything from piano to bass, drums, accordion and banjo; Christian Henn, whom the group describe as a kind of ‘song construction engineer’ and Jean-Louise Nel whom captivates with her backing vocals and viola. Other artists featured on the album include progressive trumpeter Marcus Wyatt (from Language 12) and Janus van der Merwe (from the nu jazz band, Donkey) and Ola’s father, Speedy Kobak, who has been sessioning as a trombone player for many bands including Lucky Dube, Natalie Cole and Johnny Clegg.

23 March 2011 marked the Pretoria launch date for Fulka's first full lenght album: ‘The Mystery Of The Seven Stars’. For their first launch show, Fulka showcased their brand of Folktronica (a niche genre that fuses folk music with electronica to create a sound that is both subtle and revolutionary) at Tings an' Times in Pretoria (1065 Arcadia Street, Hatfield).

The special guests for the launch shows were: Isochronous Pretoria and Johannesburg launch shows); and also DJ Kidu (JHB show) and Sven The Bear (DBN show).

Fronted by Polish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ola Kobak, Fulka is on a mission to enrich the local music scene with something unique and substantial. And their efforts are starting to pay off.

‘Dancing In Our Darkest Days’, the first official single off of, The Mystery Of The Seven Stars, has already reached the number 1 spot on several charts on the radio station Tuks FM 107.2 including the: Most Wanted Top 20, SA Top 10 and International Top 30. The music video for ‘Dancing In Our Darkest Days’ (directed and created by artist Louis Minnaar) has also been receiving decent airplay on the TV channel MK.

Fulka have been performing live since the 25th of February 2010 when the band was invited to play their first live show as the opening act for Dear Reader at the Rustic Theatre in Lonehill, JHB. Since then Fulka have performed at the Joburg Burning Festival 2010 (JHB), Tings an’ Times (PTA) and recently at Hotbox Studios (PTA) for the Bittereinder album launch (featuring Tumi Molekane). The highligh of their Festival career has been Oppikoppi 2011 which was sold out with over 18 000 people attending.

‘The Mystery Of The Seven Stars’ was released on 10 October 2010 and was mixed and recorded by Jacob Israel at Benjamin studios (PTA). The illustrations were done by Cindy Tomczyk, with design, art direction and layout by Ola Kobak.