on a recent visit to South Africa I stocked up on some new music by old musicians. As life gallops on by at an ever-increasing pace, I find it hard to keep up with the scene: so just buy the names I know. It is a little depressing to find most of them simply repeating their effects. Although they are good effects, I ache, I burn, for newness.. ok enough whining, on to the details.
1. Vusi Mahlasela, Guiding Star
His first release, When You Come Back, was spellbinding. Torrents of magnificent musicality, raw emotion bound by polished execution. This is definitely one of my desert island discs (do I date myself ? very well, I date myself).
Silang Mabele (1997) was the next one I heard. Far more subdued, not the staggering brilliance of the first release, mellower but still inspired. It has a fine cover of the Bright Blue song Weeping.
Guiding Star continues the trend to easy listening, at least if you don't pay attention to the lyrics. I'm having a hard time getting to grips with this one - it's so smooth as to disappear. I'll have to move it to mp3 so I can use headphones and listen fully. All kinds of guest artists here, Dave Matthews most famously.
Johnny Clegg, One Life
Juluka and Savuka are on the soundtrack of my life. I can't dislike anything by le Zoulou blanc, still I find nothing here that compels. Good but only for aficionados.
David Kramer, Karoo Kitaar Blues and Huistoe
Karoo Kitaar is from a show recorded at the Baxter theatre in Cape Town, which raises all kinds of ghosts from my past. Leaving those wraiths to gibber and rattle their chains in the background, the strongest songs on here are all DK's. The Karoo Kitaarists are probably best when both seen and heard. Listening alone did not move me.
Huistoe was inspired by the Karoo music. For some reason the track Onnerwater sounds to me exactly like one of the Springsteen 'Seeger session' tunes, yet none of them are actually like Onnerwater. Guess I'm getting old and batty, or perhaps there's some Jungian imperative at work in the undercurrents of folk music. Huistoe grew on me, at first listen it seemed to be boeremusiek mit concertinas and only flashes of DK's verve, not very interesting. Upon reflection and repeated listening it gets considerably better.
Klipspringer is the 5-yr-old's favorite tune, much requested while driving - 'track number 9, please' says he, getting in to the car. Like many of DK's songs, it makes me want to howl like a lonely wolf, but that's what you get for leaving home.
Soweto String Quartet, Our World
Earlier work by SSQ was absolutely marvellous, remixes of classical music with African inspirations, and vice versa. On this one, they wander off into boeremusiek (Sarie Marais) and popular music, with unhappy results. 'Sarie Marais' may once have had a honest feeling behind it, but I can no longer hear past the Afrikaner Nationalist years; 'I want to know what love is' was meretricious from first conception. The CD is still worth a listen, but not as enjoyable as the earlier ones.
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