I am not by nature a person oriented to happy musics, being dark, broody, temperamental, and apocalyptic by choice, but every so often someone comes along who makes me smile whether I want to or not. Wouter Kellerman is one of those people, and his latest, Mzansi, is a delightful 13-spot of well-blended African and World musics. The key is depth. Not for this guy is the facile Steve Halpern-ish composition or the weepy sappy string-gorged saccharine ditty, no. Instead, he infuses whatever seems to best illuminate his intent and, in the lead cut, African Hornpipes, that means a surprising blend of the dark continent and the land of leprechauns, African and Irish refrains, indeed a hornpipe set into the huge lower continent with Kellerman's flute flying high above like a suffused lark.
The follower, Malaika, features vocalist Eunice Harris and a very cool percussion section bringing the nu-instrumental sound to African rhythms and sonorities. Cape Flats, on the other hand, began as an exercise in seeing how long Kellerman could hold a note without it becoming boring or unmusical and ended up being a song highly reminiscent of Paul Horn's mid-period blended with Paul Simon and shakuhachi. The backing vocals especially are exactly the sort of thing Simon would write and arrange. Mzansi, the title track, is a bit odd in more ways than one, starting out in the strange calls of a gaggle of some kind of waterfowl piping-quacking as a slightly dissonant melody erupts, soon subsumed in a highly charged back rhythm welling up in a dominant vocal cry, Kellerman's flute responding, skittering above it all in a crazy dance. This guy can really play.
In the Moment is a very long very jazzy but picturesquely evocative solo from Wouter, its narrative evolving through a number of changes but always falling back to the melody refrain, exploring itself continually until breaking into Miniamba, a West African ballad sung by Lamine Sonko with a very refreshing children's choir. At a certain point, the song starts charging ahead in an unusual tempo upspike, reflecting the transition from calm arbor to busy city streets. Everywhere, though, in Mzansi is reflected a re-energization of melodies, tempos, rhythms, idiosyncracies, and spirits that have, in other players and composers, been too quickly and too readily thrown over for not always thoroughly enough thought-through modernity.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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