Sitali Siyolwe is one of those singular artists that has diehard fans on standby with the phrase, “I knew him back in the day”. His shows are collisions of genres that ride on the wings of lyrics so unusual and elegant that they supersize every sentiment they impart. It’s not uncommon for people to walk out of his performances stunned. For Sitali, it’s all a part of his master plan.

“I would like our audiences to leave our shows with their life batteries recharged,” he said.

Suffice it to say, that’s the bare minimum of reactions. Sitali’s monthly performances at Bossa are so celebrated that musicians up and down the 18th Street Strip race over on breaks from their own gigs to catch a morsel of his. It doesn’t hurt that Juju House – regarded as one of the best drummers in the world and a veritable legend in the DC music scene – keeps time for Sitali’s songs.

“We are promoting this new album that Juju and I have put together called Golden One,” said Sitali of his residency. The record is a raucous and affecting chef-d’œuvre that features interludes by acoustic/electronic ensemble Machines on Vacation.

“Right now we’re basically tweaking our final lineup, so playing around a lot with the string section, some horns – we’re fine-tuning the band and trying to get ready for the end of the year and projects ahead.”

With all these pieces gracing the puzzle, it’s not easy to describe Sitali’s sound. The blanket banner of “rock” looms above it, but with Delta blues, punk, folk, classical, and even go-go elements at play in the mix, it never rests on labels. What is certain is that it attracts Real Music Lovers – the type of folks who know that rock is not dead, that Robert Johnson is still relevant, and that there are still luminaries amongst us singing ferocious truths.

It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.

Meanwhile, Sitali keeps his feet on terra firma.

“I’m driven by the potential to explore new territories sonically, and I’m happy to be able to have the ability to do that,” he said. “I’d always wanted to work with strings, so now it’s showtime. I have access to these instruments, so they have to be used; and we have a really dedicated group of people who are ready to deal with my musical illiteracy and trust me.”

Trust us: You don’t want to miss this incandescent duo – along with Brian Farrow, Adriel Williams, Derek Bond, and Elliot Seppa – live at Bossa.


photo + story © yillah 2015