I'm a sucker for a capella: The Bobs, The Flying Pickets, The Nylons, The Swingle Singers, Take 6, etc., and most particularly in the last couple decades in the inimitable Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mombazo, with,of course, endless thanks to Paul Simon for bringing the group (and, in another venue, Urubamba) to American music lovers. My enamorment probably derives from a youthful exposure to doo wop, the Four Seasons (so ya know I love falsetto too), Dion, the Beach Boys, and the estimables who melded the form with instruments until I could get to the true form, which is done completely vocally. The Soil, however, returns us to South Africa in the form of three singers in their 20s fusing old traditions with bygone jazz (Miriam Makeba, etc.) in soulful recitations, here called 'Kasi Soul' or 'Ghetto Soul', incorporating melisma and rondos along with the layered encantations.
For me, the CD really gets under way in the third cut, Baninzi, with its slower lusher tropicality and slipstreamed vocal parts wrapping around one another. Much of the disc is languid and sensual, multi-dubbed to get a street or city-chamber orchestral effect, and each singer participates in the sonic labyrinth while revealing heart and underscored sonorous passion, celestial and earthy simultaneously. Brothers Ntsika Fana Ngxanga and Luphindo Ngxanga joined with a young woman, Buhlebendalo Mda, to form this beatbox experimental form that revivifies old-country ways with light technology and latterday approaches, but there is a small problem in that the material and beat can get a bit too samey after a while. Baninzi and Bhomba spark things up within very sophisticated contexts, but a couple more similar cuts would have greatly helped throw contrast on the rest of the oeuvre, investing internal dynamics more pronouncedly. Thus, The Soil is, I strongly suspect, a prelude to what the group is truly capable of, something to be brought out with a more astute production unit than was here evidenced. This trio has far too luxurious a natural sound to have any aspect sacrificed to banal homogeneity.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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