THE MOTHERS - Township Sessions
BUKKY LEO & BLACK EGYPT - Afrobeat Visions

[Mr. Bongo,]

I can't describe how excited and jittery I get at the mention of these two records, both of which just happen to have their roots in Africa. One calls South Africa its home, while the other one is from Nigeria. A little bit of background first on The Mothers [or The Philani Mothers, as they're properly known] is necessary before I move on to the record. "Philani is a community based child health and nutrition organization operating in the township and squatter communities of Cape Town, South Africa where poverty, unemployment and violence are dominant. Established in 1980 on the initiative of the women health workers in Crossroads, it is an independent non-profit making organization. The Philani Nutrition Project is committed to the protection of the rights of every child to proper nutrition and health care in communities where malnourished children and destitute mothers are the most vulnerable. The Philani Mothers formed a choir in 1986 and have recorded a collection of songs with health and nutrition messages written and sung in Xhosa that was originally released in 1998 on cassette entitled 'The Philani Mothers Lyrical Health Messages'. The purpose was to spread the Philani message within the community and is just one of the many projects initiated by the group to assist the women and children of the townships." "Township Sessions" is a collection of ten radically re-worked versions of original Philani Mothers "public service announcements". Heavy dub elements enter the picture. Aggressive house is present in much of the mixes along with some drum'n'bass. Check out the aggressive, heavily percussive mix of "Home", done by Layo and Bushwacka. South Africa's own Kalahari Surfers produce "The Written Word" - a piece that is thick in reverb and mind-numbing bass. The Mothers' voices are always present - either in choruses or hidden somewhere in the mix. I suppose this is my biggest gripe with this record. The mix is so thick and layered so densely; the Mothers' haunting voices often get buried within the grooves. [If only someone can now reissue the originals of these songs, I could say I'd died and gone to paradise!]. "Township Sessions" is a clever collaboration, full of warmth, deep grooves, endless soul and passion. Can you say, an early contender for record of the year!! Now, c'mon feet - move!

Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, saxophonist Bukky Leo played with greats such as percussionist Tony Allen and Fela Kuti. After moving to London in the early 80's, he led his own path to refine the afro-beat and acid jazz scenes of the day. "Afrobeat Visions" is Bukky's documentation of some of the most fully developed modern afro-beat tracks you're bound to hear on any side of the ocean. Bukky must have learned a lot from Fela Kuti. His voice resembles the great master [though it's somewhat crisper and more distinct and a bit less angry] and his concept for the music as a whole has the same grounding. [He believes music has the power to change evil political systems.] Listen to the call and response on some of the tracks here, and try and tell me they don't resemble some of Fela's great 70's bands. Whether this is pure afrobeat, I'm not all sure. I hear distinct elements of house, d'n'b and jazz thrown in for good measure, which only makes for a more enjoyable listen. What I love the most though about the record as a whole is its live feel. Heavy percussive elements together with Bukky's saxophones and flutes, the double bass attack of Patrick Zombonin and Jude Baptist, Justin Tihurgur's solid trombone and the lead and backing vocals of one Billie Godphrey [when is someone going to release her solo album?] - all of these factors would definitely make this band an amazing live ensemble. Heavy grooves with a social conscience; "Afrobeat Sessions" is something for the head as well as the feet.

- Tom Sekowski

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- - - - - - - - -

+ SUN RA & HIS ARKESTRA - The Cry of Jazz; SUN RA & HIS SOLAR ARKESTRA - The Magic Sun
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+ OE GIARDULLO 4TET - Now Is; JOE GIARDULLO - Weather - Live at Klub RE Krakow
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