With his feet firmly planted in African soil, Trenton Birch has a global musical sensibility. Having done his time in London developing the distinct sound and conscious lyrics of his reggae-infused Afro-beat band, Trenton and Free Radical, his return to Cape Town is a major score for the South African live music scene.
Birch believes there’s a revolution afoot. A tidal wave of changing attitudes; around the way people think about their world, their responsibility towards each other, the planet, and the type of music that’s being churned out.
Trenton and Free Radical, a musical partnership between Birch and writing collaborator Marco Weilander, is evidence of this revolution. Ibiza-raised Weilander is a studious musician who is never without his guitar; having played with the likes of Roots Manuva and Killa Kella, he’s developed unique techniques for laying down tracks, sampling, and layering, giving their music a distinctively individual character. Their sound—seductive, acoustic, urban—elegantly marries catchy tunes with meaningful lyrics. Their songs have the energy and impact of anthems; their words pack meaning and their rhythms are ones you can’t help bopping to.
Free Radical delivers honest beats—although there are diverse influences, including hip-hop and electro, the result is sufficiently distinctive and edgy to evoke a sense of being unique, avoiding tired genre labels. Theirs is a contemporary African sound with universal appeal, and the muscle to unite divergent tastes. It’s revolutionary music geared to ignite dance-floors while exploding our thinking.
Birch says he’s disgusted by apathy. Pay attention, and you find yourself intellectually engaged; they’re stoking awareness, activating listeners. They not radical in a purely political sense, but Birch is a poet with something to say, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. The band sings about war, about social injustice, about love; and they sing the praises of heroes like Mandela, offering thoughts on making the world a better place.
Before setting of for the UK, Birch was prominent on the local music scene as part of electro-rock band, Anti-Gravity, which opened for South African performances by both The Prodigy and Faithless. Whilst in Europe, Birch promoted Johnny Clegg, and headed up the African Hip Hop website / label Afrolution and ran the record label Black Mango Music which helped launched Goldfish internationally.
As Birch celebrates a return to South Africa, Trenton and Free Radical is finding its feet in Cape Town, playing up a storm on the live venue circuit in preparation for the early-2012 release of a debut album with sizeable international credentials. Produced by Dean James (Nitin Sawhney, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly) and Craigie Dodds (Sugarbabes, Natty, One Eskimo, Gorillaz), the album—“Giant Step”—is mixed by Gripper (Faithless, Dido, Hempolics), and includes vocals by the inimitable Maxi Jazz, best known to the world as the lead singer of British band, Faithless. It’s a collaboration that suggests the esteem in which the band has been held whilst working in the UK. The album also features the immensely talented South Africa Hip Hop MC Ben Sharpa and Senegalese Hip Hop artist and activist Sister Fa who recently won the global” Freedom To Create Prize”.
As they rack up live appearances in South Africa, Birch and Weilander are joined by local bassist Thabo Mobo and drummer Andre Swartz, filling out their live sound as they constantly strive for a richer, more authentic, local flavour. As Birch puts it: “Although we started playing in London, our sound and inspiration was always from the African continent—this is where my roots lie.” Mobo has played with, amongst other bands, Ill Skillz, Archetypes, ShapeShifting and Calabash, and leapfrogs between hip-hop, funk, jazz, and soul house. Swartz, whose roots are in gospel, has also worked in diverse genres, from jazz and rock/ska to hip-hop and hip-hop metal crossover. He’s played at all the country’s major festivals, recorded locally, and toured internationally.
Discover where you can catch Trenton and Free Radical this summer by following the band on Facebook.
You can also find out more about Birch’s community outreach foundation, Breathe Sunshine by visiting www.breathesunshine.org. The foundation raises funds to build schools and community centres in needy parts of the country.
Edited by freeradicallive on 24 May 2012, 16:25
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