The Brother Moves On - $/He Who Feeds You.. Owns You
Internationally-acclaimed outfit The Brother Moves On (TBMO) are part of a musical underground that connects London and their home city of Johannesburg. They exist in a powerful lineage of protest music and in the role that sound and music has in combating and soaking up the everyday struggles of life. They were described as ‘the most important band in the country’ by online publication Platform and ‘the last remaining protest band’ by saxophonist Steve Dyer, who assisted in the recording of the 2021 Gilles-Peterson released Indaba Is – which TBMO frontman Siyabonga co-produced with pianist Thandi Ntuli.
Their first gig in London, in 2014, was supporting The Comet is Coming at the storied Total Refreshment Centre and Yussef Kamaal opened for them the following year at a sold out gig at Bussey Building in Peckham. TBMO front person Siyabonga Mthembu got a sense of how they were being received back then by standing in the queue outside the gig. “I wanted to hear what people were saying. This young lady says ‘have you heard them? They sound like a night in Johannesburg.’ I was like ‘wow, that is dope’.”
Fast forward and word has been spreading beyond the two cities. The Brother Moves On’s exceptional 2021 album Tolika Mtoliki rebirthed classic South African music and messages into a stunning collection that made Apple Music’s Top Releases list of that year. Mthembu is also part of the critically-acclaimed Shabaka And The Ancestors and now, $/He Who Feeds You… Owns You is being released on Shabaka Hutchings’ Native Rebel label.
The album title comes from a speech by pan-African revolutionary Thomas Sankara to the Organisation of African Unity. “It takes his words into this time. It has a lot to do with food sovereignty and land – whoever feeds you, whoever owns your food system runs you.”
The songs on $/He Who Feed You… Owns You have been bubbling away for years. Siyabonga describes it as ‘a time capsule of a moment before the pandemic’ when they were away from home, touring Europe a lot. “All the songs became harder, stronger, thicker. They had to find their source of meaning because we were chanting them into spaces of people who got the energy but may not have got the words.”
This album has a different genesis than the first two Native Rebel releases by Chelsea Carmichael and CoN& KwAkE where Shabaka Hutchings composed a framework for the artists to improvise into shape. Instead, The Brother Moves On’s fourth album is made of existing songs, recorded in studio at Asylum Studios in Pretoria and live in front of an audience at Dyertribe Studios, with additional flute, clarinet and production from Hutchings himself. The music was arranged by TBMO with one song arranged by Spaza multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Jiyane and mixed by top-flight engineer Dilip Harris, who also worked on the Sons of Kemet albums and Indaba Is amongst much else.