Wednesday, February 25, 2004


The outpouring of interest in that Jabula Home Defenders caught me off guard. I guess I shouldn't take it for granted that African choral is uninteresting to the masses; I love it, but that's never been any guarantee of cool.

Hey, you want it you got it; I got LOTS of that stuff. Here's four more tracks of beautiful, beautiful African voices for you to cue up and mellow out to.

I'm in kind of a bad mood to be writing about this stuff now, so maybe later. Till then, I'll leave the commentary to you. UPDATE: Was in a bit of a bad mood last night, as I got stood up by my date for the evening. A night's sleep later and I'm ready to talk.


Kings Boys - "Just a Closer Walk With Thee"

This is another release from the same CD that I lifted the Jabula Home Defenders song from and I think it's equally remarkable.

Short but sweet. Played back to back with Patsy Cline's version, you can see both sides of the world at once in less than five minutes.

Can't find any more info on this group anywhere... can anybody help me?

Purchase the CD direct from Amazon


Z.C.C. Mukhukhu - "Ka Lifu Laka"

A wondrous blend of old choral style and new instrumental arrangement (is that a synthesizer pushing out that beat? Can't tell, but it works).

ZCC stands for Zionist Christian Church, Mukhukhu is apparently the name of the township this church is located in (though I've found no proof to back that up).

The soloist is really something; you can hear anguish and prayer there. The tortured singing and plodding percussion threaten to weigh this down into the realm of the funereal, but a silver current of hope laces each phrase and keeps the song alive.

Purchase the album from Amazon: The Rough Guide series, while making no pretentions of being comprehensive, does an admirable job of introducing new listeners to often difficult genres. This album is no exception and its broad selection makes it well worth a listen.

Women of Mambazo - "I Say No"

This song is about overcoming mourning and is thus all the more poignant in light of the circumstances surrounding the musicians.

The lead singer for Women of Mambazo was Nellie Shabalala, wife of Joseph Shabalala (who also appears as a vocal guest on this track). Nellie was murdered in 2002, for reasons that remain unclear. In the resulting trial, Joseph's son Vivian Nkosinathi (Nellie's stepson) was accused of hiring a man to kill Nellie. Resulting court testimony by Nkosinathi led to his statement that white African policemen offered his freedom if he would implicate his own father in the murder. The trial continues today.

This is sadly not the Shabalala family's first confrontation with violence, Headman Shabalala (Joseph's brother and bandmate) was similarly murdered by an off duty policeman.

This song is from Women of Mambazo's first, and perhaps only, album. It has not yet been released in America. Here and here are the only places I could find that were selling the album. Hopefully those curious enough can find a way to get around the complications of currency exchange.

Knowing all of this, I think the song pretty much speaks for itself.

i'm leaving this up indefinitely as a remembrance for the Shabalalas


Ladysmith Black Mambazo - "Abantwana Basethempeleni"

L.B.M. and their frontman Joseph Shabalala rose to prominence in America as the backing group for Paul Simon's phenomenally successful album Graceland, but had been producing music of their own in South Africa since the 1970's.

L.B.M. are also well known in pop culture circles as the voice of Lifesavers candy, the singers in Eddie Murphy's "Coming to America" and the band performing at the end of Michael Jackson's "Moonwalker".

Their music is powerful in the sense that it communicates meaning beyond language. The hardships that the band, and Shabalala in particular, have had to bear are unimaginable and deeply saddening; yet their music is truly uplifting and all but critically unassailable.

I had the good fortune to meet Joseph when I was much younger. When I was introduced to him, he swept me up in his arms and hugged me tightly. I had as strong a sense as I ever have had of a man that is in touch with God.

"Abantwana Basethempeleni" is an excellent showcase for everything L.B.M. does well: soaring feathersoft vibrato solo work by Joseph, riverwater pitter patter vocal flow, astonishing choral blend and harmony.

The tongue rattling "drrrrrrt" sound heard throughout the track is a noise that African farmers use to calm cattle. Works on me, too.

Amen. Amen, hallelujah, amen.

This Ladysmith Black Mambazo site is a joy to leaf through: tons of song samples, a brief zulu glossary and perhaps the first occasion of automatically loading background music that I don't mind.
L.B.M. is currently on tour in America, see if they're coming near you.
Complete in print discography for purchase.


NB: I'll be taking older tracks down without notice in the future, so show up on the scene in a timely fashion or else ya gonna get left out.
Music should stay up for at least three or four days, though; depending on the size of each subsequent posting.

Also, thanks to several sites that have taken to plugging me or dropping me in their blogrolls since we've started offering music: freakytrigger, whose popnose has been a favorite for the past few months; teachingtheindykids todanceagain; verflixt und zugenewst, who inform me I'm not the only DJ Tofu on the block; the Naked Maja; dos boheinde sisters and seymore, weblog as family bonding; jam the line, who's just getting started but deserves a plug as she's turned me on to fingertips; consumptive; somedisco; and, last but not least, enthusiastic but mediocre, also a months long fave.

Update tonight will include some clicky along with the songs.
Time to clean out the pipes.