"Apartheid era pop, and the Kwaito house that followed, brings back many memories for me. Brenda Fassi and The Big Dudes, Chicco, Alaska - these were the sounds of the townships; the records that my dad was playing as I was growing up. Ntombi was a real icon back then, she was one of three or four Black South African women that were discovered by playwright Gibson Kente. This was how many music careers started - in small township theatres. There were a lot of illegal music gatherings in neighborhoods that also acted as a space for conspiring against the government. This project was a way to bring Ntombi back up but also explore my own roots. I began tapping into all these early sounds of the 80s and 90s and bringing them across to Europe. The band was an important catalyst."
Ntombi Ndaba & Esa’s Afro Synth Band
2019 - Present
"Ntombi was a real icon back then - one of three or four Black South African women that were discovered in the townships by playwright Gibson Kente. This project was a way to bring her back up."
It started with DJ Okapi’s Afro Synth Blog. It grew into a collective mission to revive the legacy of South African dance music born during apartheid. Directed by Williams, Esa’s Afro Synth Band combines the creative talents of 80s bubblegum star Ntombi Ndaba and young artists Ami Koda and Alexander Burke (aka Forest Law), the latter of whom was mentored by Esa as part of Gilles Peterson’s Future Bubblers platform and later signed by Brownswood Recordings. The band’s 2019 European Tour - a set of six live shows from Bordeaux to Stockholm - marked Ndaba’s first time in Europe, and also the first time she had performed outside of South Africa, bringing her long-eclipsed sound to a Western audience.