The Wawela Awards taking place on Friday 28th June celebrate South African music-makers who are making a global impact. There is no doubt that Freshly Ground fits the bill. 

Afro-fusion band Freshly Ground managed to top the international iTunes charts barely a month after the release of their latest and 5th studio album Take Me To The Dance, in the USA. The US iTunes World chart, which ranks the top 10 most frequently downloaded online items including songs, albums and bands of varied music genres, ranked the band’s latest album at number one in the US. This is a massive feat for a South African group. 

The band did a tour of the USA during which the album was released. Lead vocalist Zolani Mahola says, “Our years of performing live in the States and our more recent trip on the East Coast of America contributed hugely to this milestone. Chiefly I think  (this happened) because the album really showcases who we are, which is a South African band very much globally musically aware.”  The album is receiving incredible airplay in the States and the NPR (USA National Public Radio) has embraced the album. 

“ SAMRO has signed reciprocal agreements with over 143 collecting societies from around the world. These agreements are a vote of confidence in our abilities to look after international music used in South Africa. It also gives our members peace of mind in the knowledge that their music can be commercially exploited in international markets with the same protection that is afforded local artists,” explains Xolani Zulu, Mechanical Rights Executive for SAMRO. 

The new album is packed with the band’s signature elements of honest lyrics and afropop guitar merged with dance club anthems such as the title song Take Me To The Dance. The wildly diverse material offers catchy, songs with layers of guitar, rich strings and multipart harmonies. Mahola says, “It feels great to have been at the top of the US World Music chart especially knowing how much music is actually out there. The fact that people heard about us, checked out the music and loved it enough to buy it is a special thing – not least of all because it’s so hard to encourage people to buy music rather than get it by other means in this modern age.” 

Freshly Ground’s collaboration with Shakira for the World Cup Soccer Tournament in 2010 helped to bring the bend to international attention, which they have now cemented with regular tours to foreign shores. 

“Music usage data from digital music providers like iTunes is analysed to compute streaming and download statistics used in royalty allocation and distribution.  Through reciprocal agreements SAMRO members have home-ground advantage no matter where in the world their music is consumed,” says Zulu. 

For bands wanting to break internationally, Mahola advises,” Get a lot of hours in. Practice makes you really good at your craft and brings you closer to your real musical identity. Keep playing and believing in yourself and what you have to offer. Work your hardest to get to where you want to be; this will lead you further than you thought you could get!”