Jabu Khanyile and Bayete have an interesting history. Khanyile started out in his teens with the Afro-pop band the Editions; Bayete, meanwhile, were establishing themselves as a respected Afro-jazz-rock fusion band. Khanyile joined them in 1984, but in the early '90s the group splintered, and only the singer and keyboardist remain from the original lineup. As Mmalo-We proves, Bayete has changed direction dramatically since. Gone are the jazz influences and rock licks, replaced by a breezier pop style and dance-friendly Afro beats. But that is merely the group's starting point; the backing vocals are pure African, while keyboardist Thapelo Khomo plays exquisite passages that could easily be mistaken for a 12-string guitar when he's not in the midst of a new wave revival. "Retrenchment" has an almost Caribbean flair to its intricate rhythms, bright horns, and infectious melody. The anthemic "Africa Unite" adds rap to the mix, while "Emandulo" tosses in toasting. Elsewhere, one finds an Afro ballad, the odd nod to funk, and a stunning tribute to Jamaica, "Cultural Disgrace," which sublimely blends tinges of R&B, '60s pop, and big band swing, all set to a lilting ska-esque beat. Bayete may call South Africa home, but their rich stew of styles from around the world makes their music truly universal.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene