Africa Calling

Lorraine Klaasen

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Africa Calling Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Lorraine Klaasen is certainly one of the best, if not deepest-rooted South African song stylists to come down the pike since the legendary Miriam Makeba. With the passing of Makeba, Klaasen carries the torch for both the aforementioned icon, and also for her famous mother, Thandie Klaasen. Helping is guitarist Mongezi Chris Ntaka (formerly with Lucky Dube) and bassist Bakithi Kumalo (with Dube and on Paul Simon's Graceland album) adding pure authenticity to the proceedings. While the music is in the Afro-pop realm, it touches on sotho funk, kwela, zulu, and xhosa aspects of village life while adding dance beats and feelings of triumph, with Klaasen singing in either African or English lyrics. There's the electricity of "Ziyaduma," with a pure beat reflecting the duality of representing thunder and the fact that it's all happening in the moment, while the modern modal popping rhythms infused in "Imbizo" bridge the gap between modern and traditional. Klaasen herself is effervescent, a driven vocalist who minces very few lyric lines with sentimentality, although she does offer occasional tender moments. She's driven to deliver the message for the most part, chanting with the group vocalists during the mixed and separate polyrhythms of "La Reine/The Queen," dancing in retro-disco fashion on "Spring in Every Season," or offering the celebratory wedding song "Jabulani" -- not Abdullah Ibrahim's composition of the same name. Africa Calling is a joy to hear from start to finish, a fully realized project, universally understandable, good for any party, ready to steal your heart and soul with a running start.

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