[Table Mountain watches over Manfred Klose (left) and Given Nkanyane (right) on their short trip home. PHOTO: James Browning]

Stone Jets are a now London-based musical duo who have turned a lucky Cape Town recording studio meetup into an international touring band. Since relocating in 2019, bassist and vocalist Given Nkanyane and guitarist Manfred Klose have played their smile-summoning, South African-flavoured tunes on stages across the UK and Europe.

After a longer-than-intended absence, the Stone Jets are currently back in South Africa to soak in some much-needed sun. We met up with Given and Manfred on a breezy Bloubergstrand morning to talk about the move to London, the transformative power of live music, and getting old ladies grooving at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Global citizens

Manfred bounced around a few bands before Stone Jets — including an Afrikaans punk-rock outfit called Snare van die Suburbs. “It was a time when Polisiekar was the thing, so it was cool to be in a band like that. But I’ve always loved music with African rhythms and guitar, and anything acoustic,” Manfred says.

Given and Manfred met serendipitously while in the studio in 2013, where Given was busy recording and in need of a guitarist. Soon after, Stone Jets released their debut EP in 2014, following it up with albums in 2016 and 2018.

Stone Jets
Stone Jets at Albert’s Shed in Shrewsbury in 2020. PHOTO: Supplied/Stone Jets

In those four years, Stone Jets played across South Africa, including under major festival banners like OppiKoppi and Splashy Fen. They supported Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers on his 2016 South African tour and shared the stage with late South African legend, Hugh Masekela.

In 2018, the band toured internationally for the first time, visiting the United Kingdom and Ireland. After the UK music scene welcomed Manfred and Given with open arms, they were given the chance to move permanently to England.

“Knowing that we always wanted to be global citizens, […] we decided to rather strike while the iron is hot,” Given explains. They pulled the trigger in 2019, heading up north to tour across the UK, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and the Netherlands before the end of November that year.

Sofar so good

The Stone Jets tell us they were quickly welcomed by audiences in England. “Well, it’s two-way in that we were well received, but we also received people well,” Given explains. The band carried with them their South African sense of ubuntu, common humanity, and treating others as you wish to be treated.

“When we got there, we didn’t lose sight of that, we sort of deepened in that ideology, and that really seems to have helped us,” Given continues.

Stone Jets’ South African roots push to the surface in their music as well. The rhythms on tracks like ‘How Can You’, ‘Illusion’, and ‘You Gotta Be Crazy’, combined with an often sunny, jubilant sound, make their South African folk lineage clear.

Since the move, the band has formed a sturdy relationship with international music event organiser Sofar Sounds and was a part of their 2021 campaign to mark the release of Ford’s electric Mustang.

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Stone Jets play the Gate To Southwell Festival in 2021. PHOTO: Supplied/Stone Jets

Stone Jets has also had the fortune of playing at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, an event often graced by a visit from British royals — in both 2021 and 2022. “Last year the queen came and blessed the stage, as it were, and it was really something to behold,” Given tells us.

Given recounts the show with a tinge of wonder and disbelief. “Playing ‘Hurricane’, playing ‘How Can You’, seeing all these old English people get turnt,” he recalls. “Old ladies with their fancy hats too,” Manfred adds, laughing.

Regular shows have earned Stone Jets a community of familiar faces that make gigs feel like home. “We seem to have gotten this very warm and receptive fanbase in London. I think we’ve slowly converted them to being South African,” Manfred says with some pride.

Guided journeys

Manfred tells us that part of Stone Jets’ motivation is a love of sharing love with others. For musicians, that generosity comes full circle when a listener tells them how the music has helped them, or how much it has meant to them.

“You go, ‘Wow! I never realised this song would have such a meaning to someone.’ That’s what keeps us going, hearing the stories and sharing [them] with people,” Manfred says. Given tells us that listening to music was the one thing he found that filled him with a sense of purpose, and it hooked him fully once he could express himself through his own songs.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop. Expressing one’s own existence is as true as saying your name when meeting somebody for the first time,” Given says.

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Given Nkanyane and Manfred Klose came back to SA for some sun, and Bloubergstrand was happy to deliver. PHOTO: James Browning

Aside from the obvious joy of putting smiles on people’s faces, the band appreciates the role of live music as a transformative experience. “I’m gonna try to sound artistic and say, [it’s about] the transformative power that you can harness, of taking people’s moods and the atmosphere and changing it into something else,” he explains.

However, guiding people through a journey also requires a receptive audience. “It’s not so much that you wield power over people, but [rather] are subservient to people’s willingness to walk with you on a journey that you are willing to prepare and share with them. That’s what I love,” Given says.

He feels that the focus on social media clout and instant gratification can make creatives forget that making music is a service to humanity. Seeing the ways music can profoundly touch people should be an inspiration to be the best musician you can be, he says.

“People forget that music means so much to so many people in different ways. The minute you start putting up walls and being something you aren’t, you’re doing a disservice to yourself and others,” Given adds.

A taste of home

Stone Jets’ latest release was their Live at West Hampstead recording. It was captured live in a London church with around a hundred people in attendance. The audience’s singing, cheering, and laughing, along with the generous backing vocals, make for quite an endearing album.

The band’s previous fresh material release was all the way back in 2018, and the Stone Jets are looking to devote some time to the studio when they head back north. While they’ve had plenty of songs waiting in the wings, a busy schedule of over a hundred shows last year kept them out of the recording booth.

But right now, Given and Manfred are taking a quick vacation back in South Africa. If you’re looking for a show that’s guaranteed to get you moving, you can catch the Stone Jets at café Roux on 25 January. That’s the only show they have planned for now, before heading back to London. While the duo does have their eyes on a grand homecoming tour, this trip was more of a much-needed home visit.

“You know, it was supposed to be hello everybody — like hello mom, hello dad, it’s been three years and nine months since we’ve been gone,” Given says playfully.

“And we need sun!” Manfred adds, laughing.

“And we need love, and we need boerewors, and we need chutney, and we just need friendly faces,” Given continues. We totally understand.

Author

​​I write about the tech sector in hopes we can find human-centred alternatives to the mess we’ve made for ourselves. I get involved in the music scene because leaving passion unpursued is a sin. When my feet aren’t busy on the sokkie floor, you can find me chasing silver linings.

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