The first thing that needs to be said is: this is not a jazz album. Jazz is only one of many musical traditions, most of them South African, that coalesce to form IzangoMa's debut. The percussion-rich, horn-embellished, multi-layered blend weaves together kwaito, mbaqanga, township jazz, marabi, pantsula, mbube, Jamaican nyabhingi drumming, electronica and a whole lot more. But jazz is an honoured tradition in the mix. The penultimate track, "Tribute To Johnny Dyani" (check the YouTube below), is a salute to the late bassist who went into exile from South Africa in the mid 1960s with Chris McGregor's Blue Notes, and went on to work with Don Cherry, Steve Lacy and Alan Shorter, among others.
And the jazz connection runs deeper than that. IzangoMa, which translates from Zulu as "healer," is a South African/Mozambican collective whose backbone is Sibusile Xaba, on vocals and keyboards, and Ashley Kgabo, on synths and drums. Xaba, who wrote and arranged all the material, is also a guitarist, and one of his chief formative influences on the instrument was Philip Tabane, founder in the early 1960s of South African jazz pioneers Malombo (see review of two important, spring 2023 Malombo reissues here). IzngoMa's guitarist, Virgilio Faruk, here, comes out of much the same bag.
All of which preamble is to establish IzangoMa's jazz credentials, and commend this elemental, elegant and inventive album to AAJ readers.
Anyone searching for a genre with which to tag Ngo Ma, which loosely translates from Zulu to English as "by my mother," is invited by the Xama to consider "rhythm music." And it is a good description. A second suggestion, again from Xama, is "a shroom trip laced with ones and zeros," a reference to both the out-there vibe of the music and the role played by digital studio tech in realizing it. Again, a good description.
But do not get hung up on genre categorization. Just bathe in the music, a tradition-rooted, future-facing electro-acoustic blend whichlike Philip Tabane's malombo jazzis primarily music to listen to, not dance to.
Agenda Remember; Birds (Of A Feather); City Lights; La Nna Mfana; Mgundgundlova; Ngo Ma; Out Of The World; Phew; Q&A; Tribute To Johnny Dyani; Wathint Imbokodo.
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