Music Review: Funk, Jazz, and a Freedom Movement

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Much has been made of music’s role in the South African antiapartheid movement, and of course it formed the soundtrack of black freedom. But music is the soundtrack of nearly everything that happens in that country, and this amazing three-volume set captures three distinct scenes that flourished in the buildup to apartheid’s fall–all the while sounding more like a party than a political movement.

Volume 1: Township Sounds from the Golden Age of Mbaqanga celebrates the joyous, rustic neotraditional music that kept rural-turned-urban Johannesburg workers dancing and singing even amid the racial strife of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Volume 2: Soul, Funk and Organ Grooves from the Townships 1969-1976 captures the heady influence of U.S. funk and psychedelic rock on the Jo-burg scene. And now Volume 3: Giants, Ministers, and Makers: Jazz in South Africa 1963-1984 collects many of the country’s best jazz talents you’ve never heard of–the ones who, unlike Dollar Brand and Hugh Masekela, stayed in the country to ply their craft. Strut Records deserves kudos for finding, curating, and presenting this music: Jazz and world music fans will find much to love in these vibrant audio dispatches.

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