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Music Review: Hugh Masekela – Jabulani

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Renowned South African trumpeter and vocalist Hugh Masekela provides a burst of joy and celebration with his new release, Jabulani.

Jabulani, a collection of traditional South African wedding songs, is part of the excellent Razor and Tie “Listen to Africa” series of recordings. To catch the feeling of a village celebration, the songs use as many as ten background vocalists. Masekela states that “I pray that these kinds of wedding celebrations can come back into our lives. As you listen to these songs, I wish you boisterous abandon and joyous ululations.”

And boisterous joy and abandon are the feelings this CD offers. Since most of the songs are not in English, the press release offers some explanation of what some of the songs are about.

For instance, the first song “Sossie” warns the bride that her new mate is unemotional, too intellectual, and, worst of all, unable to dance.

In South African townships, Masekela explains, “being unable to dance is a sign of dementia and total social bankruptcy.”

“Tsoang Tsoang” is a happy story about a young man who cannot afford a dowry until his friends help raise the money, at which point the couple and friends sing and dance in the streets for joy.  Other songs offer practical advice for a happy marriage (“Fiela”) or “laments” which still sound upbeat because the marriage is taking loved ones far away (“Mfana” and “Uyeyeni”).

In fact, Masekela explains, these wedding songs traditionally cover a whole range of emotions from “joy, apprehension, doubt, downright excitement and endless advice.”  The fact that the songs still convey a rousing, uplifting quality no matter what the subject is typical of South African music.

Jabulani is a real treat to listen to, with less emphasis than usual on the trumpet for Masekela and more on vocals. It is richly textured, soulful, and will have you wanting to join the celebration.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.