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Freshlyground formed in early 2002, and is made up of seven talented and diverse musicians from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Fronted by the diminutive but dynamic Zolani Mahola, the band exudes a live performance energy that has been the bedrock of their success. The experienced rhythm section of Peter Cohen (drums) & Josh Hawks (bass) is complimented by guitarist Julio Sigauque, keyboardist Seredeal Scheepers, Simon Attwell (flute, mbira, sax and harmonica) and violinist Kyla Rose Smith. Although hailing from diverse backgrounds, between them the band’s members weave a musical magic that is highly infectious and undeniably groovy.
In 2003 Freshlyground launched their debut album, Jika Jika under their own Freeground Records label, the immediate success of which firmly cemented the band as one of South Africa’s most successful young acts.
Freshlyground released their second studio album Nomvula in July 2004. Nomvula was recorded and produced by JB Arthur and Sibusiso Victor Masondo. The album sparked interest from Sony BMG Africa, who signed the band and released Nomvula in September that year. Radio quickly picked up on the single ‘Doo Be Doo’ and the catchy song went on to become a crossover favorite amongst a diverse spread of stations and their listeners. ‘Doo Be Doo’ was the most played song in South Africa in 2005. The major success of ‘Doo Be Doo’ was followed by the singles ‘I’d Like’, ‘Zithande’, ‘Things Have Changed’ and the title track of the album ‘Nomvula’.
The album sold 300 000 units in South Africa alone - earning it multi-platinum status. The success and broad appeal of the band was celebrated in November 2006 when Freshlyground won the MTV Europe Award in the category Best African Act. The award placed the band firmly on the international music map and earned them further recognition on home soil as significant South African cultural exports.
The success of Nomvula was followed by that of Ma Cheri - Freshlyground’s third studio album, released in September 2007. The album’s release was followed by a major South African tour attended by over 25 000 people across four cities. The tour was produced by Freshlyground and supported by Volkswagen South Africa. The tour successfully raised the performance and production standards of local touring, putting the band on par with international acts in terms of production scale and value. Ma Cheri sold multi platinum in South Africa and the single Pot Belly became another major crossover success.
In 2009 Freshlyground did four sold out tours in Europe. They also toured for the first time in China, the United States of America and Canada, making the band one of a handful of South African acts to have a successful and sustainable career both internationally and at home.
With their already gold fourth studio album, ‘Radio Africa’, Freshlyground have broadcast their unique sound, a sound that has turned the seven-piece into one of South Africa’s most treasured acts, to the rest of the continent and the world. While putting the finishing touches to ‘Radio Africa’ in New York in February of 2010 the band was selected to co-perform in the Official Song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Entitled ‘ Waka Waka- This Time For Africa” the song was featured on “Listen Up: The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup AlbumTM,” and is a collaboration with Colombian superstar, Shakira. Freshlyground performed Waka Waka live at the FIFA Kickoff Concert and at the World Cup closing ceremony in Johannesburg which was broadcast to over a billion people world wide. To date ‘Waka Waka’ has sold well over 3 million singles and reached number #1 on several charts worldwide. The song is the most successful anthem in the history of the FIFA World Cup and has introduced Freshlyground and their music to a host of new fans across the globe.
The band went back into studio in the winter of 2012 in the small Karoo town of Prince Albert. They worked with award winning studio engineer Dave Langemann and Grammy award winning producer Steve Berlin to record their fifth studio album, Take Me To The Dance.
The band built a makeshift studio in a community theatre in the middle of the quiet Karoo town, and created a space where, says Peter Cohen “We pushed ourselves on many levels, and as a result the record is sonically far less predictable... our collaboration with DJ Headroom on the title track Take Me To The Dance displays the band’s flexibility within genres. Freshlyground have always allowed themselves wide latitude in terms of style-hopping, and I think this album achieves that more successfully than all the others.”
In 2013 the band released Take me To The Dance in the United States on the Word of Mouth label, this was followed by a US tour which included a show at the prestigious New York venue, The Apollo. The release of the album was immediately followed by a rave review on the popular NPR show, All Things Considered and topped the North American ITunes World Music chart. During the US tour the band were honoured with a Next Generation award by Shared Interest, alongside Harry Belafonte, for their philanthropic work with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation.
On a recent visit to South Africa in June 2013 during a speech at the University of Cape Town, President Barack Obama cited Freshlyground as an example of what South Africa has given the world.