Friday, April 15, 2011

Inherently, I associate my hometown with boerewors rolls, volkspele and church bazaars, very bad Afrikaans music, and people who paint themselves blue on Saturdays.

In comes folk/electronica band Fulka and shakes these foundations on which I have built Pretoria. Since their ‘Mystery of the Seven Stars’ album’s release last year October, this Polish-inspired quintuplet have caused music aficionados to leave their music forest patch and point their ears in a deer like fashion. (They have a deer on their cover; I had to bring it in).

Lending a bit of electronic genius from band member Jacob Israel, who produced songs such as ‘Think of someone you love, he will think of you too’, the band emanates the feebleness of life, but keeps it upbeat with accompanying banjo and a number of string instruments.

Fulka lead singer and wife to Israel, Ola Kobak shares some of the band’s experience from its start and some of their future prospects.

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. (Now that song is in your head isn't it?)

Ola, you're from Polish descent. How did it come to be that you are in South Africa?
My parents are from Poland. They decided to leave the country as it was under Communist rule in the 1980's. After being in a refugee camp for two years, there was an offer to come to South Africa and so they took it. I was born here in Pretoria, South Africa 1985.

How did the band start?
When I finished writing the songs for the album, I recorded them in my bedroom studio and did preproduction. After that, I went to Jacob Israel's studio - Benjamin Studio in Pretoria, and we spent a year recording, mixing and producing the album.

During that time I started scouting for other Fulkans to join the band. Corné was the first to join as he has been a friend for many years now. I met Christian Henn at Jacob's studio. And we met Jean-Louise Nel at our first Fulka gig opening for Dear Reader in early 2010 at Rustic Theatre in Johannesburg. We got together, rehearsed and BAM! We are a happy Fulkan family.

What would you say inspires the band the most when it comes to songwriting?
 For the album, the biggest influence was mythical themes of redemption and hope, of fragility and decay. It all depends on what I’m going through.

You and your husband are both musicians. How does this affect you?
When we started working in the studio, we wanted to rip each others heads off. Looking back now, I learnt what his musical language is and I learnt about his 'space' musically, what he communicated and how, I learnt to respect that and honour it. We have started working on our own side project now and the writing process has blossomed and its smooth and it has enhanced our relationship too. Its great!

What does music mean to you?
The earliest memory I have of music was my grandfather in Poland teaching me Polish Folk Rhymes. The last track on the album called "Little Ola" is a recording my folks made of when I was a little girl, singing those rhymes. Since my father is a musician, I grew up with music and it has become a part of who I am. I think without it, I'd be really bored.

When looking at the South African music industry, there isn't a lot of other bands that follow in your genre. Would you say that this genre is a challenge?
The most challenging part of this genre that I have experienced so far is the live aspect. When we play live, we are constantly swapping instruments on stage. In one song, I play banjo, Christian plays guitar, Corné plays bass and Jean-Louise plays synths. Then, the next song, I play guitar, Christian plays synths, Corné plays banjo and Jean-Louise plays bass and so on and so forth. Jacob has the best deal actually because he remains the electronic guy throughout the live set.

So, the sound engineer breaks a sweat each time we play live and our setup is trickier than most bands that have drums, bass, guitar and vocals.

What are your views on the local music industry?
The South African music industry is growing and diversifying and thanks to the internet, South Africans have so much more accessibility to different kinds of music as opposed to just what the local music stores have to offer.

It would be really awesome to have more venues around, because you do one tour around the country and then you have played at most of the venues already. It would be nice to have an arts council that would invest in experimental projects and collaborations too, (and if there is one already, please contact me...Jacob and I have some great ideas)

Your first album was released in October. Where are you going from here?
 Music videos, new material, interactive shows with the audience, acoustic recordings and shows, shows, shows.

If you want to listen to their music or find out more about their gigs, check out their webpage right here.

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