Boomkat Product Review:
Ebullient jazz-funk and soulful rare grooves from apartheid-era South Africa - the sounds of resistance, and partying like it matters.
‘As-Shams Archive Vol. 1: South African Jazz, Funk & Soul 1975-1982’ revolves around 10 super tight tunes that showcase how South African music would parallel movements in a post-Civil Rights-era USA during a time when the country was suffering its own worries. Retrieved and remastered from original analog tapes, the set highlights iconic artists who soundtracked township soirées with hopeful and damn funky groves that have rarely been heard outside the country. It’s a a superb primer on the years before the styles of bubblegum, township funk, or even gqom and ama, when South African jazz was the toast of those in the know and served a deep function as mode of expressive release in the face of pure strife.
Plucked from the archive of As-Shams/The Sun label, which led on form the Soultown Records label, and begat the MANDLA reissue imprint, it runs down proper heat between the beaming optimism of Kippie Moketsi’s ‘Umgababa’ to the hypnotic torch song of ‘Music’ starring stunning vocals by Sathima Bea Benjamin, strutting to the jazz-funk of Dick Khoza’s ‘Lilongwe’ and the haunting groovers lament ‘Night Express’ by Black Disco, with its 11 minutes of amazing chants and low slung grip. There’s bubbling rare groove by Pat Matshikiza, the big band swing of Tete Mbambisa, again driven by Dick Khoza’s drums, and deadly in-the-pocket suss from Lionel Pillay on the deeply handsome 9 minutes of ‘Blues for Yusef’, all working as a history lesson and crucial fuel for DJs, dancers, debonairness.