Boomkat Product Review:
Illuminating a deep but perhaps unexpected link between South Africa and Sweden, folk singer Vusi Mahlesela and Jive Connection lay it down waist deep on a folk-soul flex
‘Face to Face’ speaks to long-standing links between jazz-loving Sweden - a haven for many musicians since the ‘60s - South Africa during and after Apartheid, when the Swedish government directly funded the ANC, and hosted Nelson Mandela on his European stops after release from prison in 1990. Sotho folk singer Vusi Mahlasela would perform at Mandela’s 1994 inauguration and forge enduring links with Sweden, in particular Jive Connection on their eponymous collaboration that same year, from which these “lost” and unearthed recordings stem.
Newly plucked from the archive of producer Torsten Larsson, these further examples from Vusi’s 1994 recordings also feature the songwriting and voice of Norman Zulu lending a rude spice to their equation, neatly balanced by Jive Connection’s take on township funk, spliced with elements of reggae, jazz and post-punk for an effortlessly enchanting, if melancholic album. They variously supply laments for abused children set to psych-funk grooves on ‘Faceless People’, and recall Dadawah via Bob Marley on the title song’s haunting chant, along with breezier folk soul dub in ‘Thululalele’, and driving steppers pressure in ‘Roots’, with sultriest jazz strokes on ‘Prodigal Son’.