Barry Van Zyl

Goema Music From Cape Town, South Africa

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One of the rarer forms of African music, Goema is played mostly by a Malay Muslim community in the Cape Town area. Here, the drummer from Johnny Clegg's band (Barry Van Zyl) presents a collection of pieces from the tradition. The sound is frenetic, with energy comparable to soukous and a chorus of voices shouting out the lyrics like it's an American kids song. When the group gets rolling to their full potential though, there's truthfully something of a kinship between their music and some of the higher-energy mariachi music heard in the streets and parking lots of the migrant workers' communities in America, the distinguishing factor really being the drum lineup in Goema music. Those drums are the key to Goema music in general (and its namesake, to boot). The rapid-fire runs in the background can help define the music and keep it in a tight formation. Lyrics are largely in Afrikaans, with some additional pidgin elements intermingled. The music is more foreign than a lot of African music is at this point, and yet has a hometown sense of familiarity. It's one of the rarer elements of the South African sound, and is unlikely to even show up on a compilation. This album is a rare chance for the interested listener to get a glimpse of an urban music not related to the township traditions, and should be taken up heartily.

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