Based in Soweto, Johannesburg, Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (BCUC for short) don’t limit themselves to the music of any single culture group. They epitomise the plurality of South Africa: their music reflects all the people around them, and they sing in all eleven of the country’s official languages. And from that, they make a big, big sound. Drums, percussion, bass guitar, whistles, horns and vocals – it all combines into a powerful driving force that becomes unstoppable. Their explosive live energy takes influence from hip-hop, rock, funk, gospel and Afrobeat, but also indigenous spiritual practices and magic. It’s no wonder they’re firm festival favourites across the globe.
With their all-embracing musical philosophy, BCUC are inherently political. Their songs are shot through with political messages and lessons. They hold high their values and social responsibilities, while being unafraid to criticise the wrongs around them. Like their music, their political perspective is uniquely South African while sharing a solidarity that encompasses the African continent and world as a whole. Even their organisation is utopian – the seven-piece collective is leaderless, each member contributing equally to the passion of the music.
BCUC represent the roots, trunk and branches of South African traditional music. This is cultural preservation in a way that isn’t frozen in time like a museum, but in a way that is living and breathing and growing and dancing. For their dedication to their music, their people and their country; for embodying the strength, unity and progress of their band name; and for their sheer ability to raise any roof, it is with pleasure that BCUC are the recipients of the WOMEX 23 Artist Award.
The global music scene is built on a foundation of international cultural and artistic mobility. Our industry simply could not exist without thousands of artists and arts professionals navigating the channels of international travel and expansion, but those channels are many, complex, confusing and ever-changing. On the Move has spent the last 21 years helping artists along those channels, and opening up the artistic world in the process.
On the Move is a network and online platform that connects cultural workers of all disciplines with support, information and avenues to international mobility. This takes many forms: extensive guides to institutions and opportunities in territories across the world; global listings of open project calls; mentoring schemes; data-driven research and analysis; and events, including their annual forum. No single way of working is appropriate for all, and the key is in the recognition that mobility exists in many forms – including funding, fellowships, residencies, training and more.
Importantly, all of these resources are free to access and regularly updated to keep atop the latest developments. The heart of On the Move’s mission is the democratisation of international art: by sharing knowledge and tools, it ensures that arts do not become the sole reserve of the powerful and privileged. By giving more artists access to international mobility, the global arts community becomes fairer, more transparent and more sustainable. It also allows for specific help for artists who are disadvantaged within wider cultural spheres, such as disabled, minority ethnic or refugee artists.
For the world music scene and the wider arts ecosystem, mobility is not a luxury, but a necessity. In their commitment to providing this invaluable resource for artists and cultural professionals, On the Move opens the world to artists of all stripes. For this reason, we are delighted that On the Move is the recipient of the WOMEX 23 Award for Professional Excellence.
On the Move is co-funded by the European Union and the French Ministry of Culture.