Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Music And Arts Scene

African Records Review By Staccato

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO: Induku Zethu (Earthworks ELP 2006) 'Mangosuthu', 'Induku Zethu', 'Vukani', 'Kubi Ukuingalaleli', 'Ithemba Lakho', 'Isono Sani Sentombi.''Ingwe Idla Ngamabala' 'Umzalwane', 'Ifa Lobukhosana' 'Wayibamba Mfana', 'Watatazela', 'Bakhuphuka Izwe Lonke.

Twelve tracks of very soothing Zulu vocals which will never fail to send you into the realms of pure ecstasy. To say that Ladysmith Black Mambazo are a big and successful group in South Africa would be something of an understatement. The style of music that they perform which is known as 'mbube' is exclusively male voices unaccompanied by instruments (something they've been doing for years before "The Flying Pickets" got together to sing their first note). The literature with the record states that Ladysmith Black Mambazo are not unknown to European audiences, they featured in Jeremy Marr's film documentary "Rhythms Resistance" on popular South African music. of The group is led by Joseph Shabalala who also composed all the songs on this album which deals with secular rather spiritual matters. But it was their gospel material which won them acclaim as South African top group. Listening to the record, it is not difficult to appreciate why. The smooth-moving vocal harmony comes over with such strong emotion. The only snag for listeners who are not deep into this kind of music may be the seemingly monotony since each song sounds almost the same as the other with slight variation in rhythm. Generally however, Ladysmith Black Mambazo with more than twenty long-playing records and many singles to their credit since the early 60's, have notched one more excellent recording to their achievements and I recommend it to people with discerning taste. Three Stars.

SOUZY KASSEYA: LE TELEPHONE SONNE (Earthworks Dig 12 004). 'Le telephone sonne', 'Ulta ntima tony'

This 12-inch record immediately hits you with an unmistakable and irresistible force as a sure winner in the disco circuit. The rhythm is a guaranteed Zairean featuring all the characteristics of the Soukous - steady beat propped up by intricately woven guitar arrangement. The joy of this 12 inch is that the flip-side is equally good - something which does not often happen on such offerings. So who is Souzy Kasseya? Well, the sleeve notes tell us that he is an old timer in the African music scene, particularly in his native home - Zaire where he served his apprenticeship in many bands and became record producer himself. Early this year Souzy released his first solo L.P. called "Princess Goya". From this 12 inch, 'Le telephone sonne' was picked as having the ingredient to break into the international charts - which it did as it attracted plenty of national airplay in France and consequently at many night clubs all over the country. Asked what he wanted to achieve on the song with its expansive and expressive sounds and melodies, Souzy said his aim was "to do something the public wants and to build up a following. If I make the rhythms too complicated it won't work. So I've gone for simplicity." One point stands out clearly in all this. What is good for French listeners must also be good for English record buyers who appreciate good Zairean music. I can confidently predict that "Le Telephone Sonne" will surely ring through all christmas parties wherever Africans meet to observe the festivities. Four stars.

BLACKS UNLIMITED: MABASA (Earth Works ERT 1007) 'Ndanzwa ngoma kurira', 'Mari', 'Mabasa', 'Cheremera Chaunoda','Usatambe Nenyoka', 'Muchoni'.

Thomas Mapfumo's music has always had a strong political message to his people, a situation which can only be appreciated when one understands his background in Zimbabwe's struggle for independence for which he suffered under the "colonial regime". After independence, he has used his music to forge ideas of unity and hard work, always ensuring that the message goes down very well with new musical arrangements and good strong lyrics. This album, his third to be released in Europe after the critically acclaimed singles, takes a hard look at the present realities of life in Zimbabwe. The sleeve notes has the added bonus of English translation of all the songs on the album. Of particular interest is "Muchori" which tells of the problems of "The self exile". Happily though, it is the most beautiful track of all and its danceability is unquestionable. Mapfumo is playing in London from November 23-December 6th so if you like what you hear, check him out. Four stars.

GEORGE LEE'S ANASI: 'Sea Shells/ 'Song Of Peace' (EBUSIA EB 001)

After many years in the studio with other artists George Lee, one of the most accomplished horn players of Ghana, has finally come out with this debut single. Of a jazz extraction with African content, the two songs have already attracted airplay after only one month. 'Song Of Peace' has more African feel an agbadza it is than 'Sea Shells', a more jazzier material in which George Lee reaches the highest point in his sax playing. One wonders why it took him so long to come out if he had such beautiful songs under his arm. What is striking about the songs is the production quality, which I believe is the result of concerted effort of his Anansi composed of West (including Ray Allen from Ghana) and South Africans. As a Latin jazz with Afro bias, 'Sea Shells', as an instrumental just as 'Song Of Peace', employs brisk brass and hot percussion to arrive at an eclectic formula. With the jazzy piano work in the middle and the harmonious brass construction George Lee has THOMAS MAPFUMO AND THE introduced something new and exciting which may establish him as another Grover Washington by the time his debut album comes out, probably by Christmas.

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