Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Power Of Language: Celebrating African Song – Dumisani Maswana

Arguments are often viewed in such negative light. But I choose to look at arguments as the act of, reasoning, or discussing. And anything I say, is simply a series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a particular point of view. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that over time, the old age debate on what is or isn’t jazz has not simmered. In fact, I often feel that due to my very strong opinions, people have either given up on me or refrain from sharing when I am around.

However awkward it may be, not all is lost because I still enjoy my music in peace. In fact, just a few weeks ago as I was reflecting, I stumbled across a new point of interest, and took this up with music connoisseur. It dawned on me that music with lyrics is unique to each culture and can only be meaningfully sung by people from that culture. Of course, this kind of statement cannot go unchallenged and not that I expect it shouldn’t. Take Konakel’emzini from this album and give it to Jose James to perform. Just exactly what do you think will happen? Well, I will just park this here for a minute or rather leave for you to digest.

For the first time in many years, I revel in the new space of creativity, and to see an increasingly large number of incredibly orchestrated bodies of music that are curated in the many different languages of South Africa come to life. This is a good thing because it helps one to appreciate language in a different setting and what it translates to in song. It also infuses and demonstrates the rich cultural heritage.

The album title appropriately addresses the many facets of music using language and voice. I was introduced to Dumza’s music a couple of years ago, and since then I have been trying to unpack it. Sadly, an argument around jazz overshadowed the essence of listening impartially and simply enjoying music thus it took me sometime to get back to my roots and dare I say my senses. I do now listen to his music, and rest assured I give it the time it deserves. There is an interesting trend with the recent releases and that is the opening solo piano that continues almost halfway into the second. This is often accompanied by my favourite instrument, bass.

Vumani, which is an opening track, has one of those intros that leaves you wondering what was going through the composer’s mind at the time of composition. Ja! Is Waar! South Africa has this never-ending stream of talent. Oftentimes I never know where to start when I am overwhelmed by great music.

Gatyeni, for me, sounds like storytelling of past experiences. Boy oh boy the alto saxophone solo is to die for. Vuk’ujonge has that appeal to it with a typical smooth rhythm. It is cool and very inviting, and I do not see how a music aficionado can just ignore it.

The general format of most compositions, the music often matches the lyrics. Now Konakel’emzini tells of the suffering and maybe to a certain extent reprimanding in the most sombre mood one can imagine. Truth be told, I was expecting an upbeat tune.

I never skip a track where bass dominates! Lengoma must be the one track Dumza chose bass to dominate. A very beautiful song indeed.

I am not big on drums and this much I can tell you, Bhulu is the one track that will definitely make you fall in love with drums especially the cymbals.

I will be listening to this album for the rest of the coming week and in my humble opinion, it has hit the spot. I certainly recommend that you give it a shot it rightfully deserves and today being Valentine’s Day, I believe it is what the love doctor would recommend.

Bravo Dumza for the gift of music. Enkosi.


Read this week's paper