Fans of local music will be glad to hear of this new collaboration between five noteworthy artists from the Western Cape. Stellenbosch-based independent label Afrimusik has just released Eve5: In the Garden of Song, a stylish package showcasing fine work by local female artists.
The album features established musicians Laurinda Hofmeyr and Lesley Rae-Dowling and three emerging artists, Eugenie Grobler, Nicole Holm and promising newcomer Luna Pieterse, who makes her recording debut on this album. Each artist contributed three songs and (presumably) helped define the general texture of the album.
Although there seems to have been little direct collaboration, the record has quite a cohesive feel, perhaps best described as smooth, easy-listening pop. Fortunately, the pleasant pop quality is backed up by good original writing, not the least of which comes from Pieterse, whose catchy Three Words, a meditation on home and displacement, features the lines: “I’ve been travelling many roads / Picturing all the pretty scenes / Gone to find the real thing / Landscapes I really feature in.”
Most of the songs are dominated by guitar or by piano. The exceptions are Pieterse’s tracks, where her piano work gains much from Willem Fourie’s finely judged guitar accompaniment; Grobler’s Ek Wil By Jou Wees; and Holm’s 10 Voet Hoed, which is based on a poem by Jeanne Goosen.
But this is not a flawless album. The divergent vocal styles of the five artists don’t always complement one another and the easy-listening feel could get too much for a rock fan.
The otherwise admirable writing on the album is also marred by the all-too-obvious Tori Amos influences and the prevalence of poems over original lyrics.
But all in all, these artists have produced a satisfying album, which impresses with the quality of its writing and the high standard of production.
It not only provides listeners with new recordings of old favourites, but also offers a window on emerging talent.
Anton Goosen: ‘n Vis innie Bos (Gallo)
He’s an unstoppable poet who seems to mature with age — this is evident on ‘n Vis innie Bos, which Goosen recorded with the help of local luminaries such as drummer and percussionist Barry van Zyl, pianist Paul Hanmer and guitarist George Phiri. The finely crafted songs draw you in with African rhythms and voices meeting guitar licks and electric violins. Goosen composed all the music and wrote all the lyrics, which are catchy and playful, whether Goosen’s singing the praises of Africa (Kilimanjaro) or just being a bit silly, like on the frivolous title track. He successfully tones down the mood for the ballad SMS and the ponderable Meermin. It’s an unassuming album that keeps it simple without losing any impact. — Riaan Wolmarans
Femi Kuti: Fight to Win (Wrasse)
Anybody looking for a quick snapshot of the political corruption and social strife that is racking Africa need look no further than the second album by Femi Kuti ( See also The new king of Afro-beat). Son of the Nigerian Afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti, Femi has inherited his father’s vocal talent and his righteous anger, harnessing them both to create a sequence of fiery protest songs. It seems that no aspect of contemporary Africa pleases Kuti, least of all the corrupt politicians and the oppressive religious regimes. However, no trace of whinging can be found on this apocalyptically angry record, great chunks of which sound like an entire nation of funk warriors rising up in a spirit of glorious revolution. Among the heaving bass lines and razor-sharp brass riffs there lurks a genuine feeling of optimism, a realisation that Africa’s ultimate salvation needs to be a spiritual and a peaceful one. Like his late father, Kuti is clearly dedicated to creating a riveting soundtrack to the struggle. — James Griffiths