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Selaelo Selota: Lapeng Laka

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Selaelo Selota seems equal parts King Sunny Ade and George Benson. The rhythms, beats, and melodies on Lapeng Laka glide with the slippery, effortless musical sophistication of traditional tribal songs and dances from his South African homeland, and many of its lyrics deal with its native sights and customs. Selota directs on guitar and vocals from the band's center, leading from the midst instead of out in front, in the democratic process of African music.

Surprisingly, Selota plays very little rhythm as the ensemble's only guitarist—or maybe it's not so surprising since these compositions already express so much rhythm. As a lead guitarist, he slashes and pirouettes and, like Benson, sometimes doubles with wordless vocals the notes that his guitar sings, in such tunes as "Tshwene."

Something about Lapeng Laka ("my home") and similar South African music manifests itself in a feeling that's different from the way that other music makes one feel. It's something even more profound and basic than rhythmic sophistication; it's the very idea of how music is put together. No single instrument carries any tune completely; Selota constructs lovely melodies such as "Mmakoma" and the title track from multiple instruments and voices. Although the word "constructs" implies a mechanical process, but his music seems to organically blossom and naturally grow.

"O Tshwana Le" sounds like a love song in any language, beauty rising up from amongst its percussion, bass and drums, Selota's jazzy guitar and his almost jazzy vocal. "Mala A Mpsa" rolls its gorgeous melody along slowly and powerfully, with the stately unblinking grandeur of the Amazon River. Selota's lovefest continues as "Ka Leleme Le" soars heavenward, a beautiful song of worship, its chorus, voices, and drum and piano arrangement all intertwining like a lush vine growing toward the warm, life-giving sun. He playfully leads "Dithabeng," toying like an amused tiger as he paws at his solo lines.



I didn't understand any of Selota's words on Lapeng Laka but the vibrant warmth of his spirit can sure be felt. Catching the spirit beats catching the meaning almost every single time.


Track Listing: Lapeng Laka; Mmakoma; Tshipi Sepanere; Tshwene; O Tshwana Le; Sekgalajwana; Mala A Mpsa; Ka Leleme Le; Dithabeng; Thusa Hle Malome; O Morena.

Personnel: Selaelo Selota: lead vocals, all guitars; Samuel Ogeneoghagha Ibeh: drums; Amaeshi Ikechi: bass; Paledi Malatji: keyboards, backing vocals; Edith Mudau: backing vocals.

Title: Lapeng Laka | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sony South Africa


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