First up you should listen to the album that comes along with this press kit. Put it on, turn up the volume and enjoy. If you like what you hear, skip the next paragraph and read what’s below to find out more about the band.
Now, if you did not like what you heard. Clear your mind. Run yourself a nice hot bath, pour yourself a drink or roll one up and give it another shot in the CD player. If you still don’t like it, that’s no problem. That’s how it goes. Thanks for listening and having an opinion. If you want to share it, email the band:
So you liked what you heard, because you’re still reading. That’s great. Or maybe you weren’t sampled a CD, but you like dub and reggae styles and are intrigued as to what a Mozambican dub band might sound like. Well done for making it this far. The best way for me to introduce you to this band, is to just throw you into the deep-end with a bunch of stories I have written about them. Because I think they rock. They’re even playing at my wedding later this year. Seriously.
340ml is the amount of beer you get in each bottle, unless you’re drinking quarts. And beer is something you would not usually associate with dub reggae music, ne? Nah, most likely you think of big spliffs. Stinky reefers that leave you reeling while the basslines crawl up your spine and have their way with your cranium, making your feet twitch to the music as the smile spreads the drool across your face. Hit me with music, dub style. Whacked! But just like the beer bottle you are likely to be holding in your hand soon, 340ml are a Jozi dub band who like to mix their influences. Perhaps they are the only South African dub band in existence, they are certainly the most prominent. They shot to this mad kind of South African fame at the beginning of 2003 as they graduated from their practice room, next to the pool in a Wits university residence, and started gigging around Jozi and later Oppikoppi and the rest of the country. South Africans, like you and me, starved for something new - and many of us having harboured secret Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and LKJ collections at home - took to the band's unique dub-flavoured, ska-inflected loops like camels to the oasis. It was good to hear a band secure enough in their own sound to skip over the Americanised punk rock affliction that has spread like HI virus across the SA music scene, turning a million garage bands into Blink 182 and Sum 41 simulacrums. Unlike those sold fools, 340ml are a band of originals, with a sound all their own. The band have their roots in Mozambique and comprises of four friends who grew up together in Maputo and came to South Africa to study, and ended up forming a dub band. Over time they honed their musical skills, infiltrated the live music circuit, started pulling crowds, became hipsters, released an album and the rest is history.
The dub basslines are making the glass window shake. Tokyo Star in Melville is always a good bet on a Tuesday night, when the 340ml crew get behind the decks and spin their personal dub, reggae and groove archive - with influences ranging from The Mad Professor to Finlay Quaye, Bunny Wailer to The Streets. I buy a beer and take a booth. I can only ever interview two of the band at the same time, since one is always spinning the tunes, and another is always AWOL. Operating on African time, doing the social butterfly routine, kissing girls, slapping bros hands and laughing.
Rui Soeiro, the obscenely moustachioed bassist kicks off the interview with Paulo Chibanga, 340ml's drummer, some other dudes and me; all sitting out back, in a circle, making a jamaican cigarette.
'Rui is rolling a joint in his hand' I say for a mic check.
'You can't prove that.' Says Paulo.
'No no no,' says an unknown member of the circle. 'That's a cigarette. Rolled tobacco.'
'So tell me about this album?' I ask steering the topic away from Marijuana, which we would still be talking about, had I not veered it away from that long winded, oft discussed and never agreed upon subject.
'Well I can tell you... ' Says Rui, 'that it was recorded with the finest marijuana and hash around at the time. It was higher grade… nice weed. So it was very… uh… inspirational and we managed to finish a nice album in four months.'
'And they put a lot of good production into it.' Adds Paulo
So who is the album for?
'People that smoke dope and drink Jack Daniels, they will love it.' Says Rui, deadpan behind the moustache. 'No I'm joking.'
'Everyone that enjoyed the first Finlay Quaye album will enjoy this.' Says Paulo seriously.
You guys have been spoken of as a Mozambican dub band...
'That's a load of rubbish. Don't put Mozambique.' Insists Rui.
‘But you got a funny accent.’
'We're from Pakistan.' Says Paulo. 'This whole Mozambican thing, it sells, it's what they say at the door of our gigs, but we live here.'
'Don't say we're from Mozambique. Rather call us a bunch of Porras from Bedfordview'.
'Dub is good.' says Paulo
'It’s light pop reggae man, come on.' Rui corrects Paulo jokingly, then gets serious. 'We're Africans.' He says.
'I think it's about where we come from, Mozambique is a tropical place, we basically used to a lot of skanking rhythms, not exactly reggae, but basically all of our sounds are reggae orientated. Bob Marley was big when we were growing up.' Says Paulo
'Bob Marley is big all over Africa.' I insist
'But here the reggae scene is not so big. But now there's an explosion because dub is... '
'It's taking over the world, have you noticed?' says Rui
'Why?' I ask
'Because a lot of people smoke dope nowadays.' Rui answers
'Is it necessary to smoke dope to understand dub and reggae?'
'No, not really. My mom digs our music and doesn't smoke.'
'I think dub is the next level.' Says Paulo thoughtfully. 'Like reggae was the next level after ska in the 70s, dub is the next level after reggae.'
‘I’d like to say something to the Blunt readers.’ Rui cuts in.
‘OK’ I say.
‘I think it's going to make you look cool if you listen to 340ml.’
‘Our relation is straight to them.’ Explains Paulo diplomatically. ‘Punk music is just fast reggae. Those kids know and dig dub and reggae. And now because they are too upgraded into punk they listen to dub.’
‘I keep thinking that thing is going to go out, but it never does.‘ explains Rui as he puffs on the roach. ‘I gotta go DJ, now.’
Paulo laughs as Rui makes his way to the booth. Beers and mayhem follow. Hot chicks in retro 80s minis and Jane Fonda leg warmers mince around and flirt with dreadlocked Advertising creatives and other artistic new South African professionals. The nice thing about 340ml is that they pull a very diverse and integrated crowd of people. What did you expect from dub reggae. The band is manifestly integrated., everything irie. Later in the evening I find myself on a couch massaging another beer down my throat and talking to Pedro the vocalist and Tiago the guitarist.
‘What do you like most about this album?’ I ask earnestly.
‘The packaging.’ Says Tiago the liar. Because they brought out Moving independently the packaging is… unique, and, uh, stylized.
Pedro is more serious. ‘In terms of music, the diversity - there's no way you can pin it down to one genre. It goes from reggae to dub to bossanova to samba. and I think for a first album it tries to bridge across a whole lot of barriers.
‘I agree.’ Says Tiago. ‘Honestly did we make that album, thinking of kids? We were not trying to appeal to the mass market. Most people who go to our shows, if they are not older than us, they are as mature as we are. we don't really get kids.’
‘And do kids get you?’ I ask.
‘I don't know, but they can for only R99.99. This album wasn't really made with markets in mind. Like Tweak would make an album, not in anyway dissing Tweak, if they had a company mission statement it would be to make music for kids. They want to represent a generation. On our album, I didn't think for one second about the generation I could be influencing. It was just making music for people who would understand tracks from one to 17. We weren't producing radio singles, we were producing what we worked on for three years.’
‘Who is 340ml for?’ I ask.
‘340ml is trying to bridge everyone, everything.’ Says Pedro earnestly.
‘We want your mom and your dad.’ Says Paulo.
‘Seriously,’ says Tiago, but who can trust him, ‘one of the reasons we wrote this album was for our parents to dig. Snap your fingers and enjoy.’
‘I think one of the strongest thing we've got going for us,’ adds Pedro, ‘is that we appeal to all markets. White markets, black markets, coloured markets. The sound is there, it's good music, people appreciate it for what it is. And there's no colour associated with it.’
‘What made you decide to be a dub reggae jazz, ska, funk kind of band?’ I ask.
‘The skunk, man.’ Says Paulo.
‘Jah rastafari.’ Adds Tiago.
‘You are a rasta, right?’
‘Not really man.’
‘This guy has been resisting the rasta reggae thing for ages.’ Says Paulo. ‘You can ask him, but he's the best guy who plays that shit, but he's been neglecting it for years.’
’Honestly, I don't really like reggae,’ lies Tiago. ‘I think its boring. Of course there are a couple of Bob Marley songs I dig, but playing reggae can be a bit boring. But I see in dub culture - dub is like taking something and flipping it. It's like jazz. Dub gives you that ability to flip things up. You can take reggae, rock, rocksteady, ska whatever and you can flip it up.’
Suddenly LKJ comes onto the speakers and Rui bops his head sagely from behind the DJ booth.
‘Like this isn't reggae.’ Says Tiago foolishly.
‘Bullshit, this is heavy reggae!’ insists Paulo.
‘We work ourselves from strong basslines - based on dub and reggae - and thats the basis of our music.’ Says Pedro. ‘From there you can bring in elements of rock, elements of jazz, bossanova. You can fuck around with it.’
‘When we are jamming.’ Says Paulo, ‘we can start with a funk jam, then go to a salsa jam, but as soon as I put a reggae beat we go into a dub and the song stays there, and its done. It’s what we dig. It’s dub, Dub is the shit.
‘Like Hip hop was big and now you look at MTV and its this whole 70s glam rock thing, and then electro is going to come back and be big but reggae and dub has been around since time.’ Tiago chips in.
‘It’s constant.’ Adds Pedro.
‘Reggae will never be big, but it’s like a highway.’ Says Tiago.
‘It’s always there.’ Says Pedro
‘Vintage shit.’ Tiago sums it up.
‘We want to make music that is timeless. Music that you can listen to in 5 years time and still say this is appealing shit. It’s not pop, it’s not hip hop, it’s not mainstream, but it’s there.’ States Pedro finally.
‘We’re not riding any waves.’ Tiago continues. ‘There is no hype, for three years we have been doing the same shit.’
‘It’s not like we’re trying to hook into any fad.’ One-ups Pedro. ’The album is called Moving – it’s about us moving to our own pace, moving from Mozambique to South Africa and moving on up’
340ml’s album Moving was released independently and is available from good record stores and over the net at www.340ml.com
Spin the Bottle
340ml are South Africa’s highest profile dub band and they’re not even South African. ANDY DAVIS learns to say obrigado.
There are currently four bands in South Africa that hang together as a ‘sound’. In fact, I would be so bold as to assert that we are precariously close to a ‘scene’, and we all know how this could quite easily lead to a bonafide ‘genre’. Yes folks, we’re onto something big here. On the far left we’ve got the cornerstone, Tidal Waves, the roots reggae specialists churning out their traditional Afro-roots-reggae and Marley-inspired, social conscience infused lyrics. Next along the progression towards the center is 340ml, the Mozambican rudeboys skanking Msanzi with their disitinctive ska-infused dub. Then, slap bang in the middle, we’ve got Tweak, the young South African mainstream ska punk rock prodigies, riding the Sublime wave into the hearts of a million screaming groupies. Then on the right of Tweak you’ve got Fuzigish – and they’re only on the right by association, because they sound like British punk band the Clash, in actual fact their lyrics and socio-political orientation is just about as left wing as Tidal Waves. So we’re on the cusp of having a homegrown scene of related genres, ranging from roots reggae, through dub into ska and punk. And they’re all really good, local crowds are mashing it up to full effect. Appreciation of the ‘scene’ is evident at the plethora of packed gigs around the country.
The group we’re focussing on today are 340ml – the only band in this holy quartet not to have already recorded an album. They’re the laaities on the scene, the upstarts, the upsetters, the makwerekweres.
If you were to check them on stage at the Bassline, 206, Oppikoppi or Woodstock: Rui is the bass player who looks like a Portuguese sailor with his mouth obscured by a big bushy moustache. Tiago is on the guitar, the smooth, slinky rhythm and lead guitarist. Paulo, the clean-cut beat keeper, the anchor, 340ml’s drummer. And then there’s the voice, shy Pedro, tuning the lyrics under deep swathes of reverb and fat slabs of echo. This is 340ml, same like the almost empty beer bottle I’m holding in my hand as I sway to the rhythm, eyes closed and being massaged by the basslines. And while I’m in a pondering mood, the beer bottle reference tells us quite a bit about this band. They’re not Rastas, for instance (but then again neither are Tweak or Fuzigish). If they were, maybe they’d be called Stop or Bankie. And they don’t really have the chant-down-Babylon lyrics of your average Burning Spear wannabes. But they’re unlike Tweak and Fuzigish because their sound is a hybridised Southern African dub, blending African guitar melodies with fat, rolling basslines made famous in the Carribean.
At the heart of it, 340ml are just a bunch of kids from Maputo who used to live in the same neighbourhood, grew up together in Mozambique during the civil war and have a penchant for slow, groovy music. They came to South Africa to study and ended up forming the band. They’ve been here close on seven years now.
‘Can you record good quality on that machine?’ Tiago asks, pointing at my mini disc. ‘Sure.’ I say. ‘Heh heh heh. So let’s dump the interview and record a mean dub track.’
And that pretty much sums up where 340ml are right now. They’re itching to get into a studio and lay down an album. A prospect that looks more and more likely now that Alan Freeman (from 206) has signed on as the band’s manager, agent and number one mascot.
‘340ml, the first time I met them, they came to the door of 206 and gave me a CD – and I didn’t listen to it, to be honest,’ says Alan. ‘A lot of bands were giving me CDs at that time. Then two years ago in December I was in a bar in Maputo – and I can’t remember the band because I was good and fucked. But it was one of those sexy “Caribbean” nights, dark-skinned girls wearing skimpy clothes. When the band was finished this guy came and spoke to me, and they put on the 340ml CD and the place rocked. But I was still busy with Max Normal and had no time for anything else. Then when Max Normal was falling apart, Pedro gave me a 340ml single – again, I was pretty fucked. When I got home I stuck it in the player and it really cheered me up. So I slept on it and played it again the next morning, sober, and it was still brilliant…’
Fast-forward six months and the band is looking around for the right producers to record their debut album. Eyes are falling on Adrian from Chameleon records – who produced Max Normal and Waddy’s solo project – and the African Dope stable in Cape Town.
But according to Alan there is ‘no rush, the guys must just continue to gig and hone their project. Turn it into an exportable product’. 340ml have also been given a huge leg up by one of South Africa’s most famous Mozambican musicians, Gito Baloyi from Tananas.
‘Well that’s a different band called Herbs and Roots. It’s a project we have with Gito,’ says Pedro.
‘The whole project is gonna be roots reggae,’ continues Tiago. ‘You see,’ says Pedro, ‘Gito’s got a whole lot of reggae tracks that he’s never released. Stuff that he recorded eight or nine years ago, and it’s a very commercial reggae type of sound. And he’s been wanting to do them ever since.’
So how did 340ml and Gito Baloyi come together. Was it like an act of Mozambican patriotism? ‘It was actually Rui,’ chirps Paulo from behind the drums. ‘He went for bass guitar lessons. That was the first contact the band had with Gito.’ ‘Then we had to record a track for the Woodstock soundtrack, so we called him up and he said pull in. And that’s how it all started.’
I’m not sure if there could be a bigger vote of confidence for this young band, the fact that Gito Baloyi has chosen to work with them. In this country, Tananas are like the musical illuminati, a collective of musicians with ultimate integrity. And the collaboration is bound to get them a few industry nods.
Soon come, 340ml will find themselves in a studio, they’ll do a killer dub album and this mini-South African reggae scene will take root in its rightful place, the heart of the people.
Just Twist The Top: The 340ml Story
What’s the difference between a musician and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family. Ha ha ha. That’s not funny. But let’s be honest, music is not exactly the best choice of careers if you want to make a lot of bucks quickly. Precisely because so many people want to be rock stars and there is loads of competition. One band that have been steadily carving a name for themselves in the South African music industry is 340ml. They play a unique blend of dub and reggae with influences that range from rock to samba. Originally hailing from Maputo, Mozambique, the quartet came to study at Wits University in Johannesburg, and before long they were jamming instruments and making music like they were born to do it. Once they had written a few original songs, they started playing them live, the university crowds liked what they heard and their success grew. Eventually they had enough music, and were popular enough, to record an album. They started looking at ways to finance their dream.
‘Unfortunately it doesn’t pay very well to be a musician. It’s a catch 22 thing.’ Says Pedro, the band’s lead singer. ‘Even for us, we’ve been together for four years and we’re still making very little money. It’s not the kind of profession that I’d advise people to go into if they want to make cash. But who knows, maybe one day we’ll make loads of money.’
So why do it, then?
‘It’s just the pleasure of doing something you really enjoy doing, on a daily basis.’ He smiles sweetly. ‘And if that means struggling to pay the rent for a while, so be it. Some months are good, some months are bad. It all depends on what sort of work you get.’
Now paying for an album is really expensive, studios charge by the hour, and there are plenty of hidden production costs. But if you want to make it, you have to have a great product. Something that 340ml created very deliberately. [Check the CD of the Month]
‘We were really lucky with the album.’ Says Pedro. ‘We managed to get a loan from Rui, our bass player’s parents. Which was lucky because without them it wouldn’t have been possible to record the album.’
Then 340ml made friends with their producers and sound engineers, and created a good working relationship with the studio.
‘Studio time is really expensive.’ Pedro agrees. ‘We booked 20 odd days in studio, but we ended up extending that to about four months and we weren’t really charged extra for that. It was really nice working with the Jazzworx crew [Studio and producers] on that. Because they were like us, not fixated on the cash but wanted to put out a really nice album as well. So we did a lot of late night sessions.’
Because of the amount of love, talent, time and fastidious attention to detail the boys invested in recording their debut album; Moving is a masterpiece. The quality, independently financed, album made a lot of people in the South African music industry sit up and take notice. Soon enough the album was picked up for distribution by record label Sony and started receiving serious radio play.
‘You know, it’s nice speaking with the guys from Sony and hearing that people in Potchefstroom are buying our album. We didn’t have the infrastructure to do that independently.’ Says Pedro.
But the band has always been adamant about being independent and controlling their own music and not just signing all their rights over to a big record label for a monthly salary.
‘Basically the deal we have with Sony is a one album deal.’ Explains Pedro. ‘And it’s not really an artist deal, it’s a joint venture. If you look at your basic artist deal, the artist ends up seeing 12% maybe 15% maximum of an album’s profits. But we approached Sony with a finished product, that we had financed and we had recorded a video. Then they put in the equal amount of what that cost us, which went into marketing and distribution, and we split all profits down the middle, 50/50. It’s a unique deal and we have an option for another album along the same lines. We never wanted to sign an artist deal with anyone.‘
He gives a big smile. Success breeds more success.
‘You know, in the last year or so I’ve made enough money to pay rent and still live without having to do other odd jobs.’
For a musician that’s a real accomplishment.
‘The album has been out for almost a year now and has been released by Sony for two months. So there’s a lot of activity out there. Before the deal with Sony, from selling the album on our own, we had already made back 40% of the money we owe to Rui’s parents. You know we need to pay that back as soon as possible. Our Sony deal is really helping us to do that faster.’
If you like Bob Marley, Manu Chao, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Thievery Corporation, Beanie Man and any other music that’s rhythmical and takes its cues from the islands in the Caribbean, check out 340ml’s debut album Moving, available at Look & Listen, Kalahari.net, Musica and CD Wherehouse across the country.
'I think it's about where we come from, Mozambique is a tropical place, we basically used to a lot of skanking rhythms, not exactly reggae, but basically all of our sounds are reggae orientated. Bob Marley was big when we were growing up.' – Paulo Chabanga
‘We’re not riding any waves. There is no hype, for 6 years we have been doing the same shit.’ – Tiago C. Paulo
'People that smoke dope and drink Jack Daniels, they will love it.' Rui Soeiro
‘In terms of music, the diversity - there's no way you can pin it down to one genre. It goes from reggae to dub to bossanova to samba. and I think for a first album it tries to bridge across a whole lot of barriers.’ – Pedro Pinto Da Silva