African Jazz Pioneers: Afrika Vukani (2002)
This ’99 South African production is the last recording to date of the AJP, with the exception of a collection of hits under the same distinguished Gallo label. On its 11 tracks, we find the final testament of the felicitous sensibility and low-heat-sizzling strength of Edmund ‘Bra Ntemi’ Piliso. Such virtues show in his saxophone playing, as well as in the arrangements and overall production. He already died, but he is not lost and this recording gives us two of his tasty solos to enjoy in remembrance of an influential South African son.
The blissfully mottled feel of this recording, however, owes much of its success to the variegated contributions of the band at large. Its Big Band tendencies have been tempered by proven South African flavorings such as Majuba, which arose from a ‘50s hit by the African Quavers and later begat the Jazz voicings of mbaqanga. Ska and Caribbean cognates, the 2/3 Cuban clave in one tune, loungy riffs, laid back driving sabor coming through a thickly brewed horn section, a judicious use of technological resources and good ol’ Jazz playing and soloing, rounded up with contemporary vocals that manage to reverberate into the most ancient linguistic roots of Transvaal, manage to give us a keeper of an album that shines in its healthy feel refusing to be cornered into any exclusive kraal.
Afrika Vukani is also the one album with the largest vocal sway in the AJP repertoire, which, due to the percussive character of South Saharan African languages, should not represent a problem for those of us with little or no knowledge of such idiomatic universe. One could only wish, conversely, that the lyrics in at least a couple of major European tongues would have been included in translation as they are rather meaningful for this production.
The AJP wants to heal you and these fellows can play to that effect.
Track Listing: 1. Orlando 2. Bashimane 3. Ingculaza 4. Lasmoney 5. Afrika Vukani 6. Yini Sithandwa 7. Mantonoro 8. Maperepeswa 9. Mpara 10. Marabi 11. Kokoko Vulani.
Personnel: Backing Vocals: Bongani Masuku, M V Nxumalo, Deborah Fraser & Mandisa Dlanga. Bass: Fana Zulu (5), (Felix) Philly Tau (7-solo), Joe Nina (10). Bass Guitar: Makhosini Xaba (1), (Felix) Philly Tau (2, 8), Programmed by Joe Nina (3, 11), Fana Zulu (4, 9), Programmed by Hilton Schilder (5). Drums: Isaac
Record Label: Gallo Records
Style: Beyond Jazz