Hugh Masekela


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Still in exile from his homeland, Hugh Masekela leaves no doubt where he would rather be in this carefully produced, majestically swinging, techno-pop-jazz album that leans heavily in the direction of Soweto. Masekela often performs sophisticated takes on three-chord township jive, leading the massed vocals with his own coarse yet evocatively blunt voice, while leaving himself just enough room to peel off a few patented, repeated-note trumpet licks and double-tracked flugelhorn statements. Later on the record, the keys turn minor but the high-tech verve is still there. The key track is a fine version of Masekela's signature tune of the '80s, "Bring Him Back Home," which became prophetic in the next decade with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison (though the "walking hand in hand with Winnie Mandela" bit didn't last long). From the vantage point of London, Masekela expresses homesickness in "London Fog," celebrates the imminent fall of several of the world's petty dictators in "Everybody's Standing Up," and in general lets us know that he's gonna be back home soon. His backup band, Kalahari, and a quartet of vocalists share Masekela's passion -- and the outcome of this chemistry is one of Masekela's best albums of the last 20 years.

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