Sunday, May 22, 2022

Mzansi… it can only be jazz

After years of searching, I finally met my brother David Serame in the middle of London in 1987. He had not changed one bit and was jolly as ever. It felt like time had not lapsed and we picked up where we left off. Catching up after so many years can sometimes be tricky as most discussions are quite erratic as you try to squeeze in as much information as you can in a short space of time. Talk about sensory overload! Each conversation seemed to meld into next without conclusion. But the feeling that filled the air was of excitement and gladness to have seen him. About a week or so later, he shared some of the work he was doing since the days of King Kong. He seemed very happy to share names of some musicians he had discovered along the way.

We continued to communicate until around 2012, and what he did not share is that he did some work with Adam Glasser. I discovered Adam through a friend who recommended Mzansi. As luck would have it, there was David’s name on the sleeve. My heart was racing, and I just wanted to get home and play the album.

Usually when you check out the sleeve, one of two things happen. You get excited because you either recognise the music or the artist line-up. This then means you can hardly wait to check the new rendition. The second thing is that you can be anxious if it is new music or artists for that matter. Mzansi is a dedication or rather a rendition of some of the amazing South African standards to ever come out of South Africa.

I must admit I struggled a bit with the idea of a harmonica as I was reading the sleeve and before playing the music. It was a first for me because I do not recall any South African jazz composition that includes a harmonica. As you might have guessed, I stopped going through the sleeve and played the album.

This album opens with a high paced beautiful rendition of Radebe solo. The sound of the harmonica is distinct, and it makes a very bold statement. The song has a couple of progressions that seems to exchange a conversation between the electric organ/piano, bass, and drums. Yes, it is indeed an amazing track.

Everyone who has ever dedicated a track to Bra Zim, has never disappointed. So, Blues for Zim is a well-orchestrated piece with a typical Cape Town feel. If there was ever a time I wanted to listen to David Serame, it must be when he is in that Sophiatown mode. The part where he brings out that Tsotsi taal and really shines. If you love that kind of mood, then Lesson No.1 is what you need to listen to. Besides, the Tsotsi taal, this is the song that depicts a time in our South African history especially during the 50’s.

If I were to guess, Mzansi must be a track that truly showcases Adam Glasser skilful playing of a harmonica. I love the way he complements every phrase with a piano. Blues For A Hip King is the one track that made its mark when it was first released. This rendition has a different take and an interesting interpretation of this creative piece.

Mr Pajas Goema, makes me wonder what the world of music would be like without Goema? We shall not go into the history of this often-mellow music with intermittent bursts of fast paced sections that rapidly drop to an almost quiet sound in an open space.

It is certain that anyone who explores the past South African music will not miss out on the opportunity to include Lakutshonilanga and Ekhaya. Well, you will be pleased to know these two all-time favourites are included in this album.

So, how does one describe this incredible album? In between generations lies the power of fusing old and new. And the new have the privilege of visiting both sides while reinterpreting the old music in a way that makes it easier for the new generation to understand. Mzansi has found its rightful place between the old and new.

I love this album and it has certainly opened my mind to appreciating the role of a harmonica in the South African music. Trust me your collection without this album is so much poorer. Ooops! I almost forgot you may wish to set aside your plans because Adam Glasser will be at Niki’s Oasis on the 15th of April 2022. Treat yourself to a sumptuous night of music complimented by food and drink.

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