Talking with Steve Umculo.

Steve Umculo – Fall From Grace’ EP is out now across all digital platforms:

born and raised in the culturally rich and bustling city of Johannesburg, South Africa. His music is a unique blend of afro-centric grooves and folk harmonies.

1)Can you give us some background on “fall from grace” Title inspiration / Album inspiration?

‘Fall From Grace’ came partly from a 3-month song writing journey I had in 2019 and partly from a few spontaneous lockdown writing sessions. It mostly explores the complex dynamics that tend to unfold whenever emotionally involving yourself with other people in this world. Love is a predominant theme in this body of work but I like to think that the stories could reflect many different human connections. The title ‘Fall From Grace’ has a bit of a double meaning to me. It both represents the feeling of wanting to run back to someone we know is not good for us and also the fact that this body of work is quite a far step away from my first EP, ‘Philosophy’. ‘Philosophy’ had a greater afro-centric feel to it whereas this EP is far more “western folk” based. I love them both equally but the trademark Umculo sound was always supposed to have subtle hints of groovy styles from my home continent which is what will be showcased again in my debut album next year.

2)How many instruments can you play and where did your passion begin?

I mean, I CAN play around 10 but that doesn’t necessarily mean I should! I mainly play/sing 3 on stage – voice, drums and guitar. I’m most comfortable with those. I occasionally add the uke and harmonica to my set but I’m by no stretch of the imagination any good at those. I also have an upright piano at home that I like to tinker-tanker on occasion but that’s really just for me. My love for music started when I was about 6 or 7. My mum plays guitar and my dad piano so there was never a shortage of beautiful music running through the house. That was until I got a drum kit at 8 years old… then there was just noise!

3)How have you found Covid-19 as an impact to your career?

This is quite a tricky question for me. It’s obviously had a horrific impact on my performance career but has been good for other things. I had a music professor who always put such a positive spin on questions like this. I was thinking about taking up rugby at one point and asked him if he thought it was a good idea given the fact that if I break a limb then I wouldn’t be able to drum or play guitar. He just said, “well, it wouldn’t be great for the instruments but probably would be the best thing for your singing career.” I often think about that advice. Adapt and survive.

4)If it wasn’t music, what career path would you see yourself in?

I’ve always thought that being an adventure guide would be quite cool. I would love to take people hiking overnight through the Drakensberg or Magoebaskloof. Maybe I still will one day.

5)What’s coming up in the next year for Umculo?

Well, this is the big question for any musician at this point! We’ll have to see how the rest of these restrictions go. Right now I’m doing a helluva lot of songwriting, both contracted and personal. I would ideally like to release my album by early next year and tour it through SA and Europe for 4 or 5 months. As we know though, plans can change at the drop of a hat but with any luck I’ll be able to reach my goals.

6)Where did the name Umculo find you?
(From Mix Fm’s +1)

Umculo means “music” in isiZulu. Using it in my stage name came about when I was still living in Spain back in 2017. I missed SA so much and started diving into styles such as isicathamiya, mbaqanga and maskandi. I fell in love with these genres and the fundamental rhythmic basis on which all of them are formed. I knew that, while I would never be as talented as the artists performing these styles, there were certain elements I could draw inspiration from and include in my own music. I have also always loved indie folk music from the UK and the States, including artists like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons. Thus, I started deliberately cross referencing those styles in what I was creating. This crosscultural intersection also extends to my sociopolitical ethos. That’s to say that we’ve come a long way as far as multicultural integration is concerned but we still have a very long way to go. I want my music to be a safe space for people of all cultures, races, nationalities and creeds. I want it to resonate feelings and messages of liberal democracy and bring people together who wish to celebrate that. Music allows us to escape the stresses of this crazy world and what better way for us to experience that than together? The one thing that became apparent to me while I was in Spain was that this country vibrates at a certain musical frequency that you simply don’t find anywhere else in the world. You feel it when you’re here and miss it when it’s not around you. The irony is that I had to leave to understand that but I’m so glad I did. South Africa is a very special place. I love this country and feel blessed to have been influenced by its music.

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