BandWorldAdult Contemporary


The story of Uju – A short biography

To say that it all began as a serendipitous meeting at Carfax in Johannesburg’s Newtown would be misleading. Even though today’s incarnation of the band was crystallised at a twelve-hour jam session some time in early March 2004, the concept of Uju began a few years earlier.

Embryo, both figuratively and literally, was how it all began. A group of young and earnest artists combined to form a conscientious band of renegade teenagers. Embryo was an apt tag for this aspirant brood made up of Kgomotso (bass) and Wandile Molebatsi (djembe), Ntuthu Ndlovu (poet and vocals), Serame Molusi (Guitar), Lindi Kone (backing vocals) and Mosa Koele (lead vocals).

The music was serious and intense with a tinge of accessibility, mixing strong Mbaqanga rhythms with modern Jazz and Hip Hop. The idea was great but the time was wrong. Embryo could not exist in the desert that was SA music of the early millennium, dominated by mainstream club anthems and bad imitations of American rock.

Not two years later, when the stronghold of electronic pop and Kwaito began to wane, Ntuthu, Wandi, Serame, Lindi and Kgomotso attempted a revival. Now a little older and wiser, the group came together under a new banner, Uju - Zulu for Honey.

Ntuthu, the poet and spiritual leader of the band, sought a new channel for her creative output. Embryo was gone. Uju would live on. But there was a new challenge. Serame had to pursue other commitments and Kgomotso was a full time student. The core was melting.

Ntuthu, called on her network to fill the gap and on that fateful day at Carfax, a new band was born.

Khumo Kganyago, a Jazz maestro, mentored by the likes of Selaelo Selota and schooled at FUBA, arrived with dreadlocks and an open mind.

Mosebetsi Nzimande, a rare talent with the bass sought after by such contemporary successes as Malaika and MXO, strolled in with an equal air of anticipation and professionalism unseen in many artists.

Refilwe Nyembe, a young raw talent on the drums brought a big energy and steady rhythm.

Quite coincidentally, Wandi invited Earl Joseph, an erstwhile busker and unremarkable musician, along to watch and possibly join in occasionally. He was soon adopted as a regular rhythm guitarist.

What followed was a spark of fate that occurs only as a beautiful accident. The sound grew with every rendition of old Embryo songs and the many new jams. Sober Mbaqanga riffs made way to Jazz and Soul without losing the original edge.

Hip Hop was refined and enriched with new live, big band sounds and the poetry was elevated to a new level of sophistication that lent a gravity that won’t be ignored.

Within a month, Earl became the de facto manager and a new vocalist, Lerato Ntsamai, was asked to join to boost the vocal range. Uju the enigma became Uju the experience.

Fifteen-year-old Siyabulela “Sabu” Satsha, a prodigy of rhythm replaced Refilwe on drums and subsequently left to follow a promising session career, while Lindi found it difficult to balance the band with other life commitments.

Still, with the eclectic mix of band members, each bringing a different value and influence, it is difficult to predict the way a song will emerge from the creative process.

For instance “Onions Emvuleni” began as an a capella intro to live sets but was transformed into a melodic Latin inspired percussion driven track with smooth guitaring and Cuban undertones.

“Kwezi Lomso”, in many ways the signature song of the band, went from a standard ballad to an ambient fusion of djembe, jazz guitar and soulful vocals. It is a happy marriage of reggae, African Jazz, Rock and Salsa, that progresses from a sublime intro to a frenzied conclusion.

“Black Soldier” and “Iqhalaqhala” are references to the old Mbaqanga roots with a diminutive hip-hop flair which have been typically “Uju-fied” with wa-wa guitars and soulful dynamics.

Uju is the new urban sound of an ever-changing Mzansi.

Dare you miss them?

All Music Copyrighted to Uju - 2005


To date Uju have performed at major national music festivals, appeared on numerous television shows and been lauded by both the print and internet media. The band began its gigging career at A Kind of Blue in late 2004 when they unsteadily experimented with the new sound. Since then they have graced the likes of the Blues Room in Sandton on a regular basis, rocked Newtown at all its major venues (Song Writers Club, Horror Café, Shivava Café and The Bassline).

Major festivals include Oppikoppi, Women in Arts Festival, Headlining at the Bassline for Aids Day in 2005 and playing at the Kaya FM Birthday Bash. We have been playlisted on Kaya FM and will soon be playlisted on YFM.

We launched our EP to Africa live on O Boma, a live music show on Channel O, followed by a hugely successful launch party at 88 in Norwood where we were interviewed for Weekend Live on SABC 2 and subsequently appeared