Selaelo Selota

Lapeng Laka

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It had been a while since his most recent releases, but Selaelo Selota found himself positioned at the very start of Sony's move to a new digital-release model for some international artists who otherwise might not get exposure in Western markets. Selota's Lapeng Laka is a surprising mix of basic guitar jazz and traditional South African (mainly Sepedi) sounds. There are a few notes of well-known sounds -- the isicathamiya of groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the laid-back gospel-influenced grooves once appropriated by Hugh Masekela and others. However, the more striking point of the album is its relative modernity. The focus is strongly on jazz throughout, with the lyrics simply happening to be in Sepedi (which makes the scatting portions and lyrical portions a little more familiar to the average listener than one might expect). The jazz, though, is in a form closer to basic adult pop music, something that Richard Bona might have written -- the music can flow languidly along, lazily grooving its way to completion, and it can tinkle quietly along as backing music, something Harry Belafonte might close out an evening show with. There isn't much high-tempo excitement here, but the compositions and performances from Selota are solid, showing a lot of promise as a piece of ambient excellence.