Vusa Mkhaya,
(ARC, 2012)

Vocalism is largely a cappella, and the layers of the vocals are consistently very good either way. You also get a mix of traditional African songs, some newer ones and some traditional European songs as well. This mix works very well together, and while the liner notes are very good at telling what the songs are about, it would be nice to have translations of the lyrics.

The melody of "Ulele" gives it a depth that embraces and comforts from start to finish. The guitars set the tone for "Diaspora" as the emotional lines from the previous song are brought forward with thoughts of home. The traditional song "Umakoti" is beautiful and welcoming as the voices rise and fall together. The music in "S'Thethelela" provides a quiet backdrop for the vocals, letting them craft the mood of the song.

"Brunnenmarkt" is a very light and playful slice of vocal jazz, sounding like a barbershop quartet. There is a quiet resolve in "Hayi," which was a resistance chant; I would have loved to know what the lyrics mean. The flow of the vocals in "Ukukhala" builds a feel of worship through the song. The slow tempo of "Schweinsbeuschel" feels very formal and elegant.

Mkhaya returns to worship with "Khetha Eyakho," though by the liner notes it is also a call to choice. The music starts "Sohlangana Khona," feeling upbeat and full of hope, as the song progress some of the melodies make it feel instructional as well. They shift to a quieter song with "Tavaszi Szel," where the melodies shape the depth of passion. "Uthando Lukababa" returns to the lines from "Sohlangana Khona," and the singing bridges the shift in moods very well.

"Ngiyazula" blends spoken word, singing and music together, with the spoken word quickly forming the heart of the song. The next song is in many ways a repeat of an earlier track, though there is a different group providing the background on "Ukukhala." Some of the background noise in "Ngale Komfula" adds a sense movement around the singers, with the vocals being as good as anything else on the CD.

Without a doubt the strength and core of the CD are the vocals. The music, when there is music, is also good, but it is the vocals that define the songs.

music review by
Paul de Bruijn

23 February 2013

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