Various Artists

Jive Soweto: The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, Vol. 4

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"Jive" is the generic term used to refer to South African pop music, and is often modified by reference to the featured instrument -- hence sax jive and pennywhistle jive. The term "township jive" generally means mbaqanga, a unique fusion of rural and urban music characterized by prominent electric bass, tightly arranged horns, and cascading guitar lines. The fourth volume in the Earthworks label's excellent Indestructible Beat of Soweto series focuses on early-'90s hits by the Soul Brothers, one of South Africa's finest mbaqanga groups, but it also includes tracks by such other eminent combos as Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens and Steve Kekana. The program opens with a hair-raisingly beautiful Soul Brothers number entitled "Hluphekile" but bogs down a bit after that; mbaqanga, while structured, is not the world's most linear musical form, and it can get a bit tedious if you're not dancing to it, and Sipho Mabuse's "Jive Soweto" and Ihashi Elimhophe's "Uqanduqandu," for example, both meander a bit too aimlessly. But the gems on this program, which also include Steve Kekana's stunning "Ngayivuye" and "Angithandi Ukulwa," are enough to make the album a must-own for fans of the genre.

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