All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Various Artists: Hugh Masekela Presents the Chisa Years 1965-76

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Following his departure from Johannesburg in 1961—around the same time that many other South African musicians put apartheid behind them—Hugh Masekela ensconced himself in New York and settled in to make a heap of recordings over the ensuing decades. Masekela, who first drew attention for his straight-ahead jazz playing, would eventually build an enormous American and international fan base through crossover music, as well as live performances like his appearance at the legendary 1967 Monterey Pop Festival along with Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding and other heroes of the era.

But not all of Masekela's music has aged well, which hasn't been helped by the intermittent hills and valleys in the trumpeter/vocalist's output. Some of it is downright cheesy, some of it is brilliant, but you have to throw the dice to know for sure.

Enter Masekela the producer on this collection of "rare and unreleased" songs, and those doubts rapidly fade in the light of joyous, exuberant music that draws equally from Motown, Afrobeat, mbaqanga, gospel and jazz. During a particularly fertile decade, Masekela worked with Stewart Levine to produce material for their Chisa label, including a dozen or more Crusaders records and various odds and ends that have not seen release until today.

The opening "Afro Beat Blues" came relatively late (1975) but is as good an example as any to illustrate the raw, percussive funk that underlies much of these songs. A Sly Stone-meets-Fela-Kuti groove bumps and slithers along, underpinning Masekela's relatively straightforward call and response vocals. Letta Mbulu, a megawatt singer from Soweto, lends her piercing, emphatic delivery to four tracks, including the heavily gospellized "Mahlalela" and the shuffling, keyboard-driven "Macongo" that closes the disc. The most overtly South African track comes toward the end in the form of a horn and guitar-heavy township jive performance by the Johannesburg Street Band.

These fourteen tracks are a mixture of wildly hybridized Afrocentric styles, but they flow easily and smoothly, begging bodily movement and demanding surrender to giddy flight. A party record if there ever was one!

Track Listing: Afro Beat Blues; Mahlalela; Amo Sakesa; Joala; U Se Mcani; Tepo; Za Labalaba; Witch Doctor; Melodi (Sounds Of Home); Ahvuomo; Aredze; A Cheeka Laka Laka; Awe Mfana; Macongo.

Personnel: Ojah with Hugh Masekela (1); Letta Mbulu (2,5,9,14); Baranta & Miatta Fahinbulleh (3,6,8,10,12); The Zulus (4,7,11); Johanesburg Street Band (13).

Title: Hugh Masekela Presents the Chisa Years 1965-76 | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: BBE Records


comments powered by Disqus

Sleepers Wake

Sleepers Wake

Various Artists

Winter Waltz

Winter Waltz

Various Artists
Winter: An Origin Records...

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969 - 1984

J Jazz: Deep Modern...

Barely Breaking Even

We Out Here

We Out Here

Brownswood Recordings

Stax Singles, Vol. 4: Rarities & Best of the Rest

Stax Singles, Vol. 4:...

Concord Music Group

The Last Sense To Leave Us – A Tribute To Pauline Oliveros

The Last Sense To...

Rural Colours


Related Articles

Read Wherever You're Starting From CD/LP/Track Review
Wherever You're Starting From
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery CD/LP/Track Review
Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 21, 2018
Read From Silence to Somewhere CD/LP/Track Review
From Silence to Somewhere
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Never Bet The Devil Your Head CD/LP/Track Review
Never Bet The Devil Your Head
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 21, 2018
Read The Questions CD/LP/Track Review
The Questions
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Meerkat Parade CD/LP/Track Review
Meerkat Parade
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 20, 2018
Read "Äventyret" CD/LP/Track Review Äventyret
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 5, 2017
Read "Second City" CD/LP/Track Review Second City
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 1, 2017
Read "A Big (Band) Swinging Christmas!" CD/LP/Track Review A Big (Band) Swinging Christmas!
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 25, 2017
Read "Extremophile" CD/LP/Track Review Extremophile
by John Sharpe
Published: September 26, 2017
Read "Urban Soul" CD/LP/Track Review Urban Soul
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 20, 2017
Read "Unleashed" CD/LP/Track Review Unleashed
by John Sharpe
Published: January 20, 2018