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Smooth Africa II - Exploring The Soul by Various Artists

Here is a unique 12-track compilation from Heads UpInternational. This compilationintroduces us to many artists from South Africa. Dave Love, President of Heads Up, brings us this secondinstallment in his Smooth Africa series, and I have to thank Dave forputting this disc together. Everytrack is produced well, and has a nice clean sound to it. This is a top quality production. I also think this is a very cool idea, especially since most of theartists have not have any type of broad exposure in the USA, if any at all. Overall this is a great disc, but I’ve featured a track-by-trackcommentary below.

1. WalkOf Life - Jimmy Dludlu

Nice acoustic guitar based soft jazz. This track has a full band including additional percussion. I can hear a bit of George Benson and Earl Klugh. Nice feel.

2. AbezizweUniting Nations Together - Ladysmith Black Mambazo

I’ve always wanted to hear this group, but have not had the chance. This track is listed as a traditional Zulu song about uniting as anation rather than relying on other countries to help resolve your problems. There is the definite traditional Zulu flavor to the song, based onvocals. This track developssort of a reggae feel to it, but still maintains the Zulu flavor. No specific lead instruments stand out over the vocals, but I would guessthis is more of a celebration song versus the piece trying to showcaseinstrumental solos.

3. BriningJoy - Allou April

Here we have another smooth jazz guitar piece, but this one features some ofAfrican vocals. Notas predominant as the Ladysmith Black Mambazo selection. Allou sticks to his electric guitar, and shows an understanding of thesmooth style. Nicesong.

4. Mangase- Shaluza Max

According to the liner notes, Shaluza was winner of this years SouthAfrican Music Award for Best Zulu Artist. In my mind, this track almost sounds like a dance/techno track. We have the driving drumbeat of a techno track, with some additionalaccordion type instrumentation. Thevocals are in the similar style to the other Zulu influenced vocal pieces. Not a bad song, but I didn’t hear much jazz in the song. It was basically a pop tune, by American standards.

5. AdderleyStreet - Joe McBride

Now here is some nice smooth jazz, based around piano and guitar. Joe definitely takes center stage on the piano and keyboards. A full band with horn section fills out the sound, and isn’toverbearing. This is anexcellent piece.

6. Neria- Oliver Mtukudzi

According to the liner notes, this song was written for the InternationalAward Winning Film from Zimbabwe titled Neria. We have a full band, with acoustic guitar featured in the mix. This isn’t surprising considering Oliver is playing the acousticguitar. The vocals are in theAfrican style, but not overbearing. Theguitar work is nice, but it would be nice to have more solo and less vocal. Due to the amount of vocal, I would almost have to consider this oneanother pop tune, although not with the "dance" feel of the Shaluza tune. Not much jazz here, but there is some nice moments with the lead acousticguitar.

7. Punch- Andy Narell

Here we have a nice jazz tune with steel pans as the featured leadinstrument. I am a big fan ofthis particular instrument, so this song is a favorite of mine. A nice, straight jazz feel with a bit of a samba feel. According to the liner notes, Andy is the adopted son of South Africa. If you like steel pans and a smooth jazz feel, this is the guy to checkout.

8. Botsotsi - Prince Kupi

According to the liner notes, this is a traditional folk song that was inthe townships when Prince was growing up. Prince leads the instrumentation with guitar, and is backed up by fullband instrumentation. Thistune has the African feel of the earlier vocal selections, but everything islead by the guitar versus vocals. Thisis a good representation of what to expect from a CD titled Smooth Africa.This is definitely electric guitar based smooth jazz with African flavor. Very cool.

9. Hymn For Taiwa - Moses Khumalo

Moses brings us a gospel influenced saxophone lead tune. This has the nice laid-back feel of a slow paced gospel tune, and is wellarranged. The sax is right out front when required, and the restof the group fills out the sound well. Nice piano solo from Afrika Mkhize, and Prince Kupi is holding down theguitar work on this one. I wouldlike to hear more from Moses. Nicesound, but don’t even think this is anything like Kenny G. Think more along the lines of David Sanborn. My only complaint would be that there isn’t much Africanabout this song, but according to the liner notes some of the most importantmusical compositions from South African are in this style.

10. Yebo - Joe McBride

Joe McBride is back for a second track, and this tune is another winner. This song has that African feel to it, while also maintaining a solidsmooth jazz groove. Iwill definitely be looking for more material from Mr. McBride.

11. Umuntu Wakho - Gloria Bosman

Here is a nice vocal tune. Forthis selection, I would say Gloria comes the closest to merging the styles ofvocal jazz and African traditional vocals. Plenty of backing vocals help to boost the chorussection.

12.CapeTown Love - Spyro Gyra

Some might wonder why Spyro Gyra is on this compilation, but according toDave Love’s liner notes the group was a smash hit at the 2003 North SeaJazz Festival in Cape Town. The liner notes also state the song was written by Jay after spendinga few days in the Mother City. Thetune is very much in the typical Spyro Gyra style, featuring saxophone andkeyboards. We also have theadditional pleasure of Andy Narrell providing a solo on his steel pans. This is a great smooth jazz tune, and finishes up this disc on a strongnote.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Various Artists
  • CD Title: Smooth Africa II - Exploring The Soul
  • Genre: Smooth Jazz
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Heads Up International
  • Tracks: Walk Of Life - Jimmy Dludlu, Abezizwe Uniting Nations Together - Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Bringing Joy - Allou April, Mangase - Shaluza Max, Adderley Street - Joe McBride, Neria - Oliver Mtukudzi, Punch - Andy Narell, Botsotsi - Prince Kupi, Hymn For Taiwa - Moses Khumalo, Yebo! - Joe McBride, Umuntu Wakho - Gloria Bosman, Cape Town Love - Spyro Gyra
  • Rating: Four Stars
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