Sotho Sounds in the band’s current form is four men: cheerful front-man Khuti, guitarist Tankiso, string-player Josepha and frowning powerhouse percussionist Paseka. Growing up as herd-boys in the remote highlands of Lesotho, they decided that they wanted to create music and so crafted instruments from anything they had lying around – discarded cans, wire, oil drums and scrap wood.
Junk Funk is a showcase of music created with these ad-hoc instruments and it’s frankly incredibly impressive. From the opening volley of gumboot-stomping, jackhammer-drumming music, Sotho Sounds create a uniquely muscular, melodic sound which fills the small Nightclub venue of the Gilded Balloon from corner to corner.
The bulk of the band’s material is self-composed – based on a mixture of traditional Lesotho folk music with a little hip-hop, reggae and gospel thrown in for good measure. It’s a very beguiling sound even if the quick-fire pace of the show means that songs begin to slightly blend into one towards the end.
There are also moments of light relief from the serious music. For example, we’re just digesting a beautiful solo performance from Khuti when the rest of the band sprint back onto stage and launch into a rousing song about the Chief and the Goat, complete with actions and a frighteningly accurate goat impression from Josepha.
Moments like this bring an energy to Sotho Sounds’ performance which is incredibly infectious - so much so that when Paseka finally emerges from behind his drums to drag audience members onstage for a tribal version of the Macarena, no-one thinks twice before following him.
As befits its name, ‘Junk Funk’ is, admittedly, a little rough around the edges and there are certainly things that could have been done to polish the show. It would, for example, have been nice if a technician had been able to balance out the sound levels to prevent Paseka’s thunderous drumming from overpowering the quieter sounds of the guitars and the one-string violin. However, to attempt to change Sotho Sound’s presentation could be to lose a degree of authenticity which accounts for much of the band’s charm.
Junk Funk is an exciting, energetic show that’s sure to rouse you from the lunchtime slump. The quartet are excellent musicians (heaven knows what they could do with real instruments…) and, despite a slight language barrier, superb showmen. Just don’t for a second think you can watch without getting involved.