Wouter Kellerman,
(independent, 2013)

Wouter (pronounced Vo-tur) Kellerman is a South African flute player, who plays what we might think of as African world fusion music, leading a combo that includes up to five singers, three percussionists, five guitarists and himself on flute.

Regardless of how big an orchestra he uses to create the music and no matter what he labels it, the only label that counts is this one: the music is absolutely wonderful. Rooted in African rhythms and forms no matter how far afield it ranges, Kellerman's music reflects its writer's knowledge and love of all musical cultures. The opening song, "African Hornpipes," is based on traditional Irish melodies, which he combines with African vocals. Heavily percussive, the tune is brilliant and sets up the album perfectly. "Cape Flats," an original by Kellerman and guitarist Paul Carlos, aims to recreate a yoga experience. "After Hours" sounds on the surface like a typical smooth jazz piece, with its walking bass and American jazz-influenced flute lines, but the African sound vocals behind it give it depth and originality.

By now, you've probably figured that Kellerman isn't content to establish a sound and then riff on its variations forever, like so many fusion groups do. He leaves the South African style to do a couple in the West African tradition, such as his cover of Cheilch Lo's "N'Jarinu Garab," which features a classical guitar and beautiful percussive flute playing.

If your knowledge of African music stopped with Paul Simon's Graceland, Wouter Kellerman's Mzansi is the perfect vehicle to take you deeper. It is original, accessible and open, showing us how the music and culture of other continents belong to us all and, in the way it reflects Celtic folk, American jazz and rap, how every culture reflects and builds on the art of every other.

Mostly, though, it'll provide you with one fine listening experience.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

1 February 2014

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