Video Premiere: The Ascension – ‘Khulula’

The Ascension – AKA DJ and producer Charisse C and interdisciplinary artist and vocalist Koek Sista – share the official music video for their debut single ‘Khulula’ out now on the ever-consistent London-based independent imprint Don’t Sleep.

With both halves of the innovative duo containing globe-spanning touchpoints, it’s no surprise that their pairing of elemental electronic production with cathartic vocal layerings is as radical as it is club-ready. ‘Khulula’ is the heavyweight debut single inspired by a lullaby Ulungile has always sung for her son, featuring a spellbinding chorus sung in isiZulu that translates to ‘free my soul’. Produced by Sfarzo Rtee and with soft harmonic support from Charisse C, Makhanj, S.O.N and Reed, it’s an instant amapiano earworm that feels equal parts spiritual and dynamic, both healing and electrifying, that is bound to create euphoria on the dancefloor. On the track, the duo note: “It beckons the listener to determine what kind of freedom they’re in search of, undeniably a spiritual piece of music with just the right amount of isigubhu (bass drum) to keep every grooviest on their feet.”

The track comes with the official music video directed by female directors Kit & Koketso Matabane in Johannesburg to create a linear narrative and visceral artistic piece. In the piece, they state: “We really enjoyed the concept of exploring dualities. Some of the initial dialogue between us explored how the things you deny are often a deeper reflection of you. And how important it is to understand this in order to evolve, to ascend. We really resonated with this.

We incorporated this thinking into all aspects, from lighting, selection of jewellery, and frame rates, to grade. The artists also challenged us by stating that they didn’t want to do any performances in the video. So creatively we found unique ways of telling both a linear narrative and a visceral art piece. It was a great experience and as two female directors we loved nothing more than creating with our two super-talented artists in mind”. 

Bonding over a shared passion for Southern African electronic music and the desire to push it beyond its current boundaries, DJ Charisse C connected with the performer Koek Sista during the pandemic. “Meeting Charisse was an anchor for me,” says Ulungile. “We have a lot of similarities in how we think about life and sisterhood and art and the place of Black women in creative industries so that foundation was always there.” They began the journey of translating those values in a creative coalition with their explosive viral Boiler Room debut leading to a string of performances from the V&A to Fabric, Tate Modern to KOKO, Somerset House to the Southbank Centre.

photographer @mini_photography

Born in Zimbabwe, of Shona, Ndebele and Zulu heritage, Charisse’s family moved to the UK when she was 3 where she’s lived between London and Reading ever since. Of Zulu heritage too, Koek Sista – née Ulungile Magubane – was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa and spent time living in Soweto as well as the northern suburbs until her family relocated to New York, USA at the age of 13. It was in their early 20s that they both reconnected with their respective hometowns to shape who they are today. Now they are bringing their synergy to the recorded format for the first time as they unleash their music to the world. As the name suggests, The Ascension have their sights set on the highest peaks of the electronic scene: there’s no one else doing it quite like this powerful force, 2023 is the year everyone takes notice.

Video credits
Director: Kietumetse Qhali @director_kit
Assistant Director: Koketso Matabane @bongiekokie

Artwork photo by @solosworld_

Khulula is out now: