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Meet the Band: The Culture Cartel

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The Culture Cartel is a band based out of Gauteng, South Africa. Where some may know cartels to deal drugs, the Culture Cartel deals art and creativity. Each band member has their own creative back story, and through the band they’ve managed to blend their talents. While you may know a few members from Misa Narrates already, others are faces you are sure to have seen somewhere on social media.

Unami Kombani

An affinity for music should come as no surprise in Unami’s life. From the tender age of six, his father introduced him to the acoustic guitar. From that time, he learned to play the piano and the bass guitar. Watching live performances and accidentally catching Stanley Clark, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten on TV, led to him choosing a life of music.

Being in a band comes naturally to Unami, given how he participated in one with his father at church. What he appreciates most about the Culture Cartel, specifically, is that every member has a concept and grasp of both the creative and technical side to music. “It’s never a haphazard creative process,” he says, “we talk the technical before we play it… [and] that’s really phenomenal.”

JJ Leteane

JaySquared, more commonly known as JJ, joins Unami in the instrumental department of the band. While you may not immediately recognize his face, you have definitely heard his work. Do you remember the “No More” prelude for Una Rams’ “Nobody” music video? JJ produced it! Another little known fact would be his work with Shane Eagle; the South African hip hop artist whose album recently went gold without a distribution deal.

JaySquared is the band’s pianist and head producer. His knack for arranging music and love for creating a cinematic experience when listening to it make him integral to the Culture Cartel.

Taboka Kombani

Taboka is the behind the scenes brains to the Culture Cartel operation. As their manager, she ensures the smooth functioning of the band. Taboka’s surname may lead some to believe she is married to Unami, but they are actually siblings! Neverthelesss, working with family has not come with any discomfort yet!

As someone who gets a firsthand view of their creative process, she most enjoys that “the band is free to express themselves.” She mentions that working with the group has exposed her to a different way of making sense of one’s feelings. More so than that, she enjoys how interactive and diverse the band is. The Culture Cartel engages positively with their supporters and pays attention to produce music that keeps their audience in mind. With this in mind, Taboka has the pleasure of managing a “carefree” and gracious band…a manager’s dream.

T.O.M

 

You would recognize T.O.M after I introduced him to you in 2016. Since then, he has released music videos for his music, as well as collaborated with another favorite: AWSB. Now, he has taken his vocal and instrumental talents to the Culture Cartel. As one of the band’s vocalists, alongside his skills on the piano, TOM is responsible for the sound in the band.

Naye Ayla

Naye is the band’s only female vocalist. More so, you could probably spot her in a crowd. You’ve seen her promoting her shows for different venues across the Johannesburg area. For her, being in the Culture Cartel is about how exciting it is “to be able to share ideas with people who can envision and feel [them too].”

As a solo artist, Naye appreciates the power of collaboration. Her last EP, Exi(s)t, included features like Youngsta CPT and Una Rams. Working with each band member is also about pushing her musical boundaries.

Una Rams

Una, Twitter’s favorite “Venda Pop Star.” Since the last time he was featured here, his solo career has garnered far more public attention. As a member o the Culture Cartel, he works more so with the production of the group. While many people hate group work, myself included, Una believes that the band works like a burger is set up. Every band member’s contribution is what makes each part of their musical, metaphorical, burger.

“We’re in a space where there isn’t a lot of expectation from people; which allows us to roam freely,” he says. The Culture Cartel’s relative newness to the music space is one that allows the group to enjoy their love for creating and music until it’s determined which direction they will take. For the time being, the Culture Cartel is “ideas on top of ideas,” according to the young self proclaimed pop star.

 

Download the Culture Cartel’s latest singles “Unpredictable” and “SoulSlide” here.

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