How Austin’s Riders Against the Storm Came to Collaborate With South Africa’s BLK JKS

A fan of the experimental South African group BLK JKS, I had already gravitated towards their drummer Tshepang Ramoba’s hovering and uplifting piece of global pop, “Lefase”, when my excitement increased tenfold. Midway through what seems to be an ode to his homeland, a beat kicks in, and two immediately recognizable voices emerge, belonging to the husband-wife duo Chaka and Di Dada of Riders Against the Storm. My first thought: how cool! My second: How did this happen? How did two bands, one based in Johannesburg, the other in Austin, come to collaborate on a piece of music? I reached out to Tshepang and Chaka to find out. 

For Chaka, the story begins pre-pandemic, when RAS was holding court at the Empire Control Room. It was there, Chaka told me, that he befriended a sound technician named Antoine Ware. Antoine and Chaka would hang out after shows, and though Ware eventually decamped to the DC area, they stayed in touch. It was Ware who happened to notice Tshepang’s post on social media looking for collaborators for a new EP (out this month), and he immediately alerted Chaka. Chaka got in touch with Tshepang and they began their collaboration. So, a tale of the value of having friends, and the power of happenstance? Yeah, to some degree, but that’s not all there is to the story. 

Tshepang explains. “The crazy thing is that when I got the song with RAS on it,  I was looking through my old stuff and found one of their business cards, meaning I had met them before at SXSW while there with BLK JKS.” It was Chaka’s card, and when Tshepang sent him a picture of the discovery, Chaka was floored. BLK JKS played SXSW in 2017, so it’s not surprising neither remembered their previous encounter. Still, something prompted Tshepang to search his old contacts. “ I always tell people that magic exists because of these kinds of situations,” he says. “ We are meant to be.” 

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