Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Given the geographical and cultural diversity here – from the late Tony Allen and the Watts Prophets to South African artists from Soweto, West Papua highlands' singers Benny and Maria Wenda and kicked off by Johannesburg's Rangoato Hlasane and Malose Malahlela with UK electronica dance artists Coldcut – the surprise here isn't that it sounds like a Womad dance party in your lounge but that it works so well.
The glue of course is the groove and the percussion of Allen – with nods to Afrobeat – as well as the urgent saxophones from the likes of Antibalas, Shabaka Hutchings and Tamar Osborn over the top of hyperactive, tickling guitar parts by Miles James and Sibusile Xaba and the rock solid Afro-funk bassist Gally Ngoveni.
Add loops and scratching, vocalists deployed with sensitivity and you have . . .
A boiling gumbo of catchy songs with real hooks and memorable choruses which sometimes touches the slippery juju guitar'n'vocal interlock from West Africa (Shepherd Song), passages of township jive, contemporary London jazz, electronica, declamatory and politicisied Afrofuturism spoken word (The Watts Poets on Freedom Groove, with Antibalas) and more.
It's not all party-time: Broken Light (with jazz flute!) and 5&1 at the centre offer breathing space and the dramatic instrumental Swift Gathering at the end comes with delicate piano (Joe Armon-Jones) and strings arranged by London-born Eska Mtungwazi (who is someone to check out, her soulful debut from last year is here)
Keleketla!-- on the Ahead of Our Time label and meaning “response” – might be a one-off album and the logistics of these or other similarly-inclined artists following it up might be too difficult.
But right now it stands as an enjoyable, intelligent and important cross-genre album which glows with passion and pleasures.
You can hear this album on Spotify here but it is also available on double vinyl which your local record store can order through Border Music, Auckland.