Hugh Masekela, Jabulani

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 01.31.12 in Reviews


Hugh Masekela

Known for wedding the musical traditions of his native South Africato other styles from around the world, trumpeter Hugh Masekela (b. 1939) returns on Jabulani to the literal wedding music of his childhood. The Zulu title means rejoice, and Masekela celebrates good times (come on!) mostly with funky, thumping mbaqanga dance grooves that lean heavily on the one, while organ and piano often team up, as on “Tsoang Tsoang” (Come Out), to lend a gospel tinge to the township jive. Ever the syncretist, Masekela adds funky strings to “Iph’ Indela” and takes a Latin detour in “Scatter My Dada.”

South Africa trumpeter returns to the wedding music of his childhood

Masekela’s trumpet solos tend to sound a little slower and wobblier than his rhythm section prepares us for, yet still pack a lot of character into a minimum of riffs. And his rough, groaning tenor voice is the perfect vehicle for lyrics that reality-check marriage’s sober aftermath (“Mfana”) or offer free domestic advice, as in “Fiela” (Sweep). It ends with “No Harvest (Asilimanga),” an unexpectedly downbeat tune punctuated by synthetic bird songs and containing the ominous self-referential line, “No more grazing in the grass, no more cereal for breakfast.” Sounds like the honeymoon’s over already.