Various Artists, Thunder Before Dawn (The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto Vol.2)

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The worthwhile follow-up to a classic collection.

Of course, album compiler Trevor Herman wasn't going to beat the titanic Indestructible Beat of Soweto on his second try. He'd be lucky to match it. And if he doesn't, that only means the first volume was absolutely perfect. Still, “really terrific” is enough for most albums, and so it is for Thunder Before Dawn, issued three years later. It's slicker than the earlier edition, and a little samier — the rough-voiced Mahlathini gets three tracks; his loping backing group, Makgona Tshole Band, one; the upbeat glide of Amaswazi Emvelo, three. The overall feel is more evened out; the groove skips as much as it stomps, though it still stomps plenty. It's still got its raw moments, though — check Malombo's “Motshile,” as rough and immediate as a field recording — and the singing is often tremendous. The way the voices gather and stack on the refrains of Dilika's “Amazimuzimu” remind us that South African music is rooted in vocal tradition, and how rich that tradition is.