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South Africa tunes in to racial harmony

'Freshlyground,' an ethnically mixed band, fuses culture, language, and sound to unite listeners weary of crime headlines.

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To find the sunny, hopeful, postapartheid "rainbow" nation that South African politicians talk about, close your eyes and turn on the radio. There, you're likely to hear a group called Freshlyground and their delicious mixture of African jazz and R&B, and lyrics in English and Xhosa.

Possibly South Africa's most well-known up-and-coming band, Freshlyground is a breath of fresh air in a society struggling to put its ugly racial past behind it. Its seven members are as diverse as the society they come from, a group of blacks and whites who seem to have moved beyond race.

"There are quite a large number of young South Africans who grew up in a multiracial society, who were unencumbered by apartheid, and music is starting to reflect that," says Richard Nwamba, host of the Africa Connections show on SAfm radio network in Johannesburg.

Reaching out to one other

Today's music-lovers are less interested in politics, says Mr. Nwamba, but they still want to make a better South Africa.

"The fact that Freshlyground is so successful shows that a lot of blacks and whites want to reach out to one another," he says. And the fact that the lead singer of Freshlyground, Zolani Mahola, is black "shows that society now accepts blacks in position of leadership, in terms of culture."

But the members of Freshlyground – the name of a popular South African pepper-grinder – say they're just a band.

"Everyone likes to sit in the sun and listen to good music," says Aron Turest-Swartz, the keyboardist. "People are hungry for positive stuff, positive energy, having an uplifting experience. I think that is the commonality."


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