When you think of banjos and kierpce (traditional Polish leather shoes) the last thing that comes to mind is an upbeat fusion of folk and electronica. This eclectic genre is the brainchild of Pretoria-based band, Fulka. Perdeby spoke to Ola Kobak, Jacob Israel, Corné Roodt, Christian Henn and Jean-Louise Nel about their progressive style and Fulka’s debut album.

A set-up that includes banjo, viola and synthesisers is pretty unique. What inspired you to conceive “folktronica”?

I started writing four years ago and I wanted to do something that I thought wasn’t there before. I went through all my influences and I had a look at different genres. Jacob introduced me to some electronic bands and then I thought of just combining two genres, electronica and folk. I haven’t heard [many] bands that have put that together.

Your new album, The Mystery of the Seven Stars, has been launched at various venues over the past two weeks. What is the symbolic value of the album cover?

It’s a direct visual interpretation of the genre “folktronica”. The deer is the folk and the grid is the electronica.

Do you [Ola] reckon that your Polish origins play a cornerstone-role in Fulka’s pioneering sound?

Definitely, there is a nostalgia when I’m writing the songs for where I come from. It’s also part of the folk side of where the music comes from

So Fulka is a Germanic word meaning “people” or “army”. What made you decide on this particular name for the band?

It also means to fight for that which is true. A lot of the songs on the album represent that kind of struggle. There’s also another band out there called Fulka but they’re a death-metal band from Israel. They really hate us. They send us hate-spam saying, “You are thieves” and “We were there first”. Now we dedicate a song to them at every show we play.

“Folktronica” isn’t a commercial style of music, yet Fulka has already achieved a considerable amount of success. What advice can you offer aspiring local bands who are also trying something different?

I think it’s important to know who you are and if you don’t know, explore who you are through music. For me, it’s not as nice to just imitate another band. But if it helps to first imitate another band and then get your own tunes from there, that’s fine as well. I think it’s important to do your own thing, you know, and don’t care about anything else. You can make up the genre later.

Do you have any plans to perform overseas or take your music to an international level?

We’ve got a friend in Texas who’s actually involved in the South by Southwest Festival, so we’d really be keen to go there. And then I’d love to go to Poland as well, of course. My dad, he’s a musician and he’s played at Polish festivals before. Maybe through his connections we can get sponsorship and all go.

Photo: Desré Barnard

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