Africa Plus Album Review
Africa Plus members are relatively young but have already earned their stripes at various music avenues. The band’s bass player Prince Bulo won the SAMRO overseas Scholarship for Jazz category and features in many award winning albums, Lungelo Ngcobo the pianist/ keyboard player was the finalist of a prestigious UNISA piano competition, the drummer Sphelelo Mazibuko immensely contributed to the album that probably won Benjamin Japhtha the Standard Bank Young Artist (Jazz) for 2017 award. So the music enthusiasts who have been following these young musicians have always had high expectations about their debut record.
The music paths of AfricaPlus members have always intertwined, they studied in the same music school and have worked in the same projects so it was inevitable that at some point they would eventually come together to form a music ensemble.
Observing the band’s name, the music, and this trio’s image, it appears that identity is at the centre of its being. This group is an afrocentric oufit that perceives music through a global lens, it expresses old wisdom through a fresh interpretation.
Despite their unquestionable accomplishments it was a daring decision on their part to release a live record as their debut album, this move could decide the fate of the future of this band, it could easily dismantle the future of the band if something went wrong. This record was recorded live at The Orbit (The home of jazz), it captures the raw real essence of their music.
Given the musical backgrounds of the members of this band it comes as no surprise that their debut album is a hybrid of a wide range of contemporary music influences infused into a pot of contemporary jazz.
On this record Lungelo plays with fluidity, lyricism and grace, he showcases both jazz piano elegance and soulful organ voice projection. Bulo is popularly known for his sheer flair, flamboyant and dominant bass playing style, but on this particular records he plays with caution, discipline and pays emphasis on bass fundamentals. Sphelelo provides multiplicity and balance in the music, he oozes with dynamism and versatility as he multi tasks keeping time, colouring the sound and dishing comping patterns that complement his peers.
This band also features a beautiful alto tenor saxophone player by the name of Tshepo Tsotetsi who brings an added texture, pitch and dimension to the music. Tsotetsi’s role also allows Lungelo to freely interchangeably move in between playing melodies and harmonies.
Their album opens with a piece titled “Brothers” which to me signifies the history and the bond that exists between these three gentlemen. This piece oozes with energy and a sense of resolve as Lungelo’s relentless piano stretches. These guys occasionally flip it over and swing vigorously, this tune happens to be most influenced by the traditional jazz. Bulo plays a beautiful bass solo with Sphelelo’s comping behind him.
The next track is titled “Drums in Orbit (Lelo’s Interlude)”. This album contains about 3 interludes which are sequenced beautifully blending tracks into a seamless incessant music composite, this happens to be one of the most creative ideas on this album.
The tune “Who am I” ‘is constructed in a way that reminds me of the “Fusion music” of the 80’s and 90’s popularly made by the likes of Bob James, Dan Siegal, Dave Grusin. “Mehlclate part 1” is such a soulful and expressive hymn featuring Tshotetsi on alto sax. The band is just in its element as they play this piece since they have played this kind of sound for years in church. Part two of the same song is given a slightly uptempo dimension while the reprise version is probably my favourite piece on the album, it gives a glimpse of Bulo breaking lose and his passion for funk, and it also reveals Lungelo’s organ voice that he is popularly known for in Gospel music circles, pity this piece is only two minutes and thirty five seconds long. The band’s cohesiveness is striking yet the band members maintain their individual musical personalities,
“African Roots” is preceded and developed from “Bass-ic Talk (Bulo’s Interlude) which gives it the root note. It opens with an a West African influenced bassline comped by Lelo’s djembe influenced drumming, then settles into a steady reggae rhythm that gradually evolves into a persistent “Struggle” rhythm and infectious chant that goes with it, interestingly this particular “ghetto” sound is treated with sophistication as Lungelo graciously glades piano runs on top of it.
“Pray for Africa” is a hauntingly beautiful “praise and worship” piece fusing the traditional spiritual and a contemporary element featuring Tsotetsi on vocoder. The album closes with “Sea side” which is probably the one of the catchy pieces on the album and has the makings of a radio hit.
The sound quality of the record is average given the limitations of a live recording as opposed to a studio recording, however the music quality totally makes the live recording decision worth it.
An inspiring thing about this project is that the band members wrote, produced, engineered and did the graphics of the album sleeve themselves, they totally took ownership of their work. One of the special things about this record is that it comes with an eight page colour album sleeve which gives the record collectors an added pleasure of text and visuals that enhances a holistic music listening experience.
– Njabulo Madlala
Africa Plus allows audio taping at almost every live performance. We feel that each show is unique and want to offer our fans the opportunity to recreate the live experience through the audio reproduction of our shows. At all taping authorized performances, tapers can tape from any ticketed seating location in the venue. Also,for many of these performances tapers are able to purchase tickets for a specially designated taper section, normally located immediately behind the soundboard. No soundboard or power feeds are provided.
Taping is limited to audio-only, using only microphones. Wireless receivers are strictly prohibited. We sincerely appreciate all of our fans, so we ask that you please be considerate of those around you by not obstructing anyone else’s view of the performance.
All recordings must be used for personal use or trading only. Selling or commercializing any recording is illegal and will jeopardize taping privileges for everyone. Please read our Bootleg Statement for more information.
In addition to helping fans recreate the live experience, we hope tape trading will foster greater interaction within the fan community. Any method of trading that does not involve personal fan interaction defeats the spirit of this goal of the taping policy and is not authorized. In particular, posting audio or video files on web sites for streaming to or downloading by the public, is not authorized.
All audio and video performances belong to the Africa Plus and are not available for promotional use without the explicit prior written consent of the Africa Plus. Please read our Bootleg Statement for more information.
Africa Plus endorses the creation of fan web sites; however, the images, audio, and video material found on www.africaplus.co.za and www.princebulo.co.za belong to Africa Plus and may only be used with the Band’s prior consent. Please e-mail us at: email@example.com to request consent.
All lyrics, CD covers, and other original artwork designed by or for Africa Plus belong to Africa Plus. Please respect the band’s ownership and refrain from infringing upon copyrights.
A notice to our fans about Bootleg Recordings, Television and Radio Broadcasts:
We would like to thank those of you who have been helping us with the bootleg CD problem. For those of you who are unaware of what’s been going on we would like to let you know that the Africa Plus has always encouraged the taping of our performances, but only for personal use, including trading, as outlined in the Taping Policy Statement. The proliferation of commercial resale of recordings of our concerts has become a concern to us. Commercial bootleg’s are not only excessively priced and of inferior quality, but primarily, they are an illegal use that threaten the taping privileges of everyone. Due to the efforts of a few unscrupulous tapers the privilege of recording live performances has been jeopardized. Those of you who have passed along information about commercialized recordings have been very instrumental in our fight against these bootleggers. An equally important violation of the integrity of the music is the unauthorized commercial exploitation of the band now occurring on television and radio broadcasts. Without our knowledge or permission, our songs have been used on soap operas and sports promotions. Once again we turn to you to assist us with putting a stop to this use of our music. If you see Africa Plus music being used in what you feel may be an uncomfortable situation for the band, we ask you to notify us by e-mail or fax. Please provide the date, time, station, program name and song used. And don’t forget, the battle against bootleggers is an ongoing one. We still encourage you to email or fax us the name and locations of any retailers or distributors of bootleg CD’s along with the titles and quantities in stock. With your help we can stop the flood of illegal recordings and preserve the privilege of our fans to record our performances. We can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at Attn: DMB Warehouse (434) 951-9006. Thanks.
©Prince Bulo Productions, Monarch Music Network, Lelomusic Corp 2014, . All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication, transmission or display is prohibited.