Valanga Khoza

Images of Africa

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Another display of ARC Records' habit of finding cheaper (and less authentic) talent outside the region that they're representing. Here, they present Valanga Khoza, a South African-born Australian. The music is decently well performed, and South African forms are displayed throughout, though the packaging can be rather misleading. The cover itself promises South African instruments, including the kora (a thoroughly West African instrument). The marimba and kalimba are also featured however, which are more Pan-African instruments. The vocal work is definitely based on South African forms in general, and works relatively well along the way. This is no Ladysmith Black Mambazo, this is no Lucky Dube, but this is a man attempting to emulate and evoke them both. In some ways, Bobby McFerrin's underrated Medicine Music may be a better choice for some of the styles shown off here. Khoza's guitar work is worthy, and he showcases it on a number of tracks, along with worthwhile kalimba work. This nearly saves the album from drudgery. Unfortunately, the album includes an embarrassing worldbeat number to finish, once it had almost been redeemed. It's hard to avoid going into the worldbeat regime for a number of newer artists, and it was apparently too much to resist for Khoza, with thumping keyboard and drum samples thrown over the top of some simplistic vocals. Here is where the listener loses confidence in Khoza again. Pick it up as a novelty, or a very basic and uninformed introduction to South African music. Otherwise, look into Mahlathini, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, the Mahotella Queens, or a number of others.

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