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Mythical characters arise out of the aspirations and fears of people and such figures end up conforming the dreamy inroads of inspiration into music. On the cover of uBuntu appears a warrior-like personage that could very well sing her way into the pantheon of ancestral spirits that reigns, according to many honorable local traditions, over African music. Behold composer, lyricist and singer Suthukazi Arosi. It is hoped that her dark knobkerrie will not hit you in the head, like the literary character MaMsomi was, in order to take you into the cave of renewed musical tastes, searching for our fabled common humanity through this recording. That, after all, is what Arosi is looking for, a common humanity all the way through a sound that moves, pleases, inspires and soothes.
South Africans do not concern themselves too much with fitting their tuneful lives and lexis into easy labels, hence the stew of influences present in Arosi’s Jazzy and rootsy recording. Musically speaking this CD is a deft hunt for melody and harmony, through several stimuli. The sax lines on the opening cut, for example, are as embedded in Jazz as they are in the strapping Pop that thrives throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. An occasional acoustic piano, accompanied by superb rhythmic support throughout the album, serves Arosi’s indomitable vocalizations rather well. Her africanía readily conveys passion, emotion, depth, happiness and hope. Tradition, most obviously expressed through the lead and back up vocal work, does not have to exclude the advances brought about by technology. Its sparse use in the album complements the colorful palette that this striking actress offers on a graceful acoustic bed made by musicians that can keep plenty of swing and groove going through it all.
As in any type of art, the touches matter most. Arosi’s production values infuse a breath of life into a program of implementation that, along with the support of Andile Yenana and Herbie Tsoaeli, shaped the musical feel or air of this recording. Such is the way in which mythical characters become living messengers of critical communications of hope, challenge, as well as life and fun. After uBuntu you will love Africa, people, life and Arosi much more. Her breath of life can touch you...
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.