Julian Bahula – Spirit of Malombo (4 stars)

A fine introduction to the music of the drummer and anti-apartheid activist

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Julian Bahula – Spirit of Malombo

(Strut)

Spanning 1966 to 1984, Spirit of Malombo is a fine introduction to the music of drummer and anti-apartheid activist Julian Bahula. Disc one documents the evolution of the original Malombo sound, as Bahula incorporates traditional African drums and rhythms into a progressive-jazz format. The results are a delight. Take 'Abbey's Mood', where Abbey Cindi's flute swoops around Philip Tabane's Soweto surf guitar, while Bahula hammers out rolling polyrythms on hand drums. 'Matshenyogo' introduces electric bass and a lovely tremolo guitar, while 'Away From Malombo's' adds saxophone and a trap kit to the percussive stew. The second disc follows Bahula into European exile in the 1970s and 80s. The core elements of Malombo remain, but they've been souped up with extra horns and increasingly sophisticated arrangements which encompass soul, funk and fusion. Most startling of all is 'Sorrows', a pro-Mandela chant over a cauldron of analogue synthesiser.

Malombo Jazz Makers - "Hleziphi" [from: Spirit of Malombo]

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