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(Published: November 13, 2011)

Jabulani Is Filled With 'Boisterous Abandon And Joyous Ululation"

Some of trumpeter and vocalist Hugh Masekela's earliest memories are filled with joyous music. As a child in Witbank, South Africa, he recalls the celebratory songs that filled his home town in the weeks prior to the weddings of friends and family members. In the month before the wedding of his aunt and uncle when he was just four years old, "the betrothed's young neighbors, friends and relations would conduct a nightly choir practice from dusk until close to midnight," he recalls, "marching up and down the street, singing the most beautiful songs accompanied by occasional, very intricate choreographed moves which were a pure joy to witness."

When the wedding day finally arrived, the event was filled with music, dancing, feasting, drinking and seemingly endless merriment. In the years that followed, Masekela committed many of these traditional wedding songs and dances to memory. "I came to really love the songs and looked forward to coming weddings, choir practice and meeting beautiful girls," he says.

Masekela relives these joyous and heady days of his youth on Jabulani, his new album scheduled for release on January 31, 2012 as part of the Listen 2 Africa Series / Razor & Tie. Sometimes wise, sometimes comical, oftentimes both, the 11-song set includes many traditional songs that date back several generations in South African wedding tradition. "This anthology and choreography have stayed deeply embedded in my memory," he says. "This is a tribute to the township weddings of yesteryear."

Masekela is joined on Jabulani by a large crew of talented players: bassist Fana Zulu; keyboardists Randal Skippers, Xoli Nkosi and Don Laka; guitarists Cameron Ward and Ntokozo Zungu; drummer Lee-Roy Sauls; and percussionist Godfrey Mgcina. The celebration is further enhanced by the joyous and rousing voices of no less than ten background vocalists.

Jabulani opens with the shimmering "Sossie," a traditional song that tells the tale of an ex-lover who castigates the other half for marrying someone who is unemotional, overly intellectual, and worst of all, can't dance. In the townships of South Africa, says Masekela, "being unable to dance is a sign of dementia and total social bankruptcy."

The rousing "Fiela" is a bit of practical advice to young married couples to make a happy home by making a clean home, while the yearning but upbeat "Iph'Indela" is one man's lament for a beautiful lover he left behind in Takoradi - a port city in Ghana - and his vow to go back and find her.

In a playful vocal duet featuring Masekela and Tsepo Thsola, "Tsoang Tsoang" tells the story of a young man of modest means who couldn't afford the dowry for his bride Naledi. With help from his friends, he is able to afford the dowry, and the couple join in the singing and dancing in the streets in anticipation of a happy life together.

Driven by an uptempo backbeat that belies its poignant message, "Mfana" is a traditional song for a boy whose sister has married a man from a faraway land who has taken her home with him. The marriage has forever changed the dynamics of the family, and now the boy must find a new best friend to replace the close relationship he'd had with his sister, whom he will never see again. Likewise, the rhythmic and churning "Uyeyeni" tells a very similar story of Yeyeni, a woman who is sorely missed by her friends and loved ones - and perhaps even a past lover - since she has entered into marriage.

Masekela explains that the weddings of South Africa's rural and urban communities "are filled with declarations of caution, inspiration, joy, apprehension, doubt, downright excitement and endless advice. The speeches are all about domestic bliss, generosity, protection, respect, affection, kindness, loyalty love, regeneration, intimacy and support. They are pleas against violence, abuse infidelity, amnesia, slothfulness, jealousy, envy and exploitation. Hundreds of songs are composed anonymously on these issues and rehearsed for months before the wedding.' Simply put, says Masekela, the very heart of Jabulani "is beautiful music."

He adds: "I pray that these kinds of wedding celebrations can come back into our lives. As you listen to these songs, I wish you boisterous abandon and joyous ululations."

About Listen 2 Africa Series
Listen 2 Entertainment Group founder Dave Love through his commitment to young musicians and industry representatives in the Republic of South Africa, founded the Heads Up Africa series, a critically acclaimed collection that spotlighted some of southern Africa's finest vocalists and instrumentalists. The series was launched to mark the anniversary of the end of apartheid. Artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, Oliver Mtukudzi, Hugh Masekela and other top talent from this musically and culturally rich part of the world contributed to its success. Having worked for close to two decades with musicians from the African continent and with the formation of Listen 2 Entertainment Group it was a natural progression for Love to continue his cross cultural collaborations with the Listen 2 Africa Series.

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