MAYFES'I' ' '
four corners. Fiona McAllister of Heartbeat World Music, who has brought Kanda Bongo Man and The Four Brothers to these shores. is currently brimming with optimism. ‘Generally. in 1988! had audiences ofaround 300 for the gigs I was putting on. but last autumn figures had risen to over 400 plus. And I don‘t see why the figures shouldn‘t keep going up every year at that rate because at the moment I‘ve got a mailing list ofover a thousand people in Scotland who are dying to know more about world music.‘
The theory goes that it’s Western pop music‘s ongoing stagnation that leads listeners to seek pastures further afield. a prognosis with which Trevor Herman. the South African expat who's compiled and annotated the splendid Indestructible Beat of So weto and Zimbabwe Frontline compilations for Earthworks/Virgin. would certainly concur. ‘I listen to Thomas Mapfumo or Mahlathini and to me there’s a real soulful feeling there. The South African stuff is obviously influenced by American music because the economy was always strong enough to import jazz and blues records. Mbaquanga music or township jive borrows their modern instrumentation. adds the local rhythms. takes from the strong South African vocal tradition. and the result has a genuine R ‘n‘ B kind ofexcitement.‘
‘We keep putting out this music because we really like it and we think other people will too.‘ explains the ever-enthusiastic Herman. ‘I think it‘s just a matter of keeping going. and over the years getting more and more people to hear it. Hopefully. there‘ll be more promoters and more festivals who‘ll be willing to expose the music to audiences all over the country.’
He may well be right. Indeed. the spin-off from exposure to. and admiration for black African artists could be to improve the somewhat marginalised position in which their music currently languishes and perhaps even start wearing down the everyday ingrained prejudices that attend every aspect of their reception in this country. Over the years. Thomas Brooman has witnessed the power of musical expression in affecting people‘s thinking: ‘There's always a politic attached to any group coming out of any country. but it's not up to us as promoters to proclaim its relevance. We let performers do that in whatever form they deem necessary. I‘ve seen Hugh Masekela. for instance. add a few brief. potent words to a storming set. and I know the audience has learnt more about apartheid. racism and oppression in those few moments than they have from a thousand party political polemics.‘
Billy Bragg launches the Mayfest Music From The Frontline when he introduces all the visiting bands at the (‘in Hall on Sun 6 May. 7. 30pm; while Thoth Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited are at the Pavilion
Theatre on Thurs I7antl Fri 18 May. 8pm.
The massive Music From The Frontllne programme at Mayfest brings together a package of artists from seven different countries, each of whom will be performing with their own distinctive sound and style. Here Trevor Johnston guides you through the pack, offering the uninitiated an indication of what to expect, and providing a few hints for further listening.
See listings for details of dates and venues.
I BATSUMI (Botswana) You might have come across singer and guitarist Banjo Mosele as the irontman for UK-based outfit Bushmen Don’t Surf,
who've visited Scotland in the past, but ‘
here he’s leading a band formed from the top talent of his native Botswana. While you’ll hearthe segeba, a
one-stringed instrument native to the
area, Batsumi (which means ‘Hunters’) 5'
adopt traditional rhythms to more familiar rock instrumentation. Check out the exquisite patterns woven by three guitars.
I BLACK UMFOLOSI (Zimbabwe) Drawing on the same Southern African vocal tradition that brought Black Ladysmith Mambazo to international
. prominence and a major recording
contract through the patronage of Paul Simon, is this fine Zimbabwean choral group. Named aftera local river, they’ll be participating in a televised collaboration with Glasgow’s Call That Singing! to be televised in aid of the 1990 Telethon.
» . '1st l
I EYUPHURO (Mozambique) Pronounced Ee-yoo-poo-roo, this sextet from the northern Nampala province are probably the country’s best known popular music act. Replacing the rock drum kit with two percussionists allows the Arabic-influenced rhythms to come through, while the interplay of the two guitarists shows the gentle lift of their Portuguese legacy. Writer/singer/dancer Zena Bakar’s songs often offer a woman’s perspective on the problems of poverty and sexual discrimination. At the end of May Peter Gabriel’s Real World label will release an album, ‘Mama Mosambiki’, that merits investigation. I THE KAFALA BROTHERS (Angola) Probably the quietest act in the Frontine Music programme, the melancholy harmonies conjured up by singer Jose, guitarist Moises and their flautist have drawn comparison with Simon and Garfunkel (l), but closerto the mark might be the Brazilian saudaudes of Gilberto Gil among others, which also bears the imprint of
a Portuguese-influenced melodic sensibility. Their album, ‘Ngola’, was released last year on the AA Enterprises label to much acclaim, including a ten-star review in the late ’Cut’ magazine.
I KARIAKOO NATIONAL DANCE AND MUSIC GROUP (Tanzania) The Taarab music of Africa's east coast is an exotic and alien-sounding blend, as exemplified by these twelve members pulled from an original (rather unleasible) line-up of 52. The celebrated 80-year-old Kidude Baraka‘s soaring Arabian-style vocals are joined by ever-shifting patterns of percussion, strings and backing singers to create a striking listening experience far removed from the recognisable pop dynamics of the other Mayfest acts. There’s more Taarab music to be found on Volume Two of Globestyle Records’ Music of Zanzibar compilation.
I MASASU BAND (Zambia) Yes, it’s that driving Mantyantya beat that’s taken Masasu to the top of the Zambian charts, and might soon earn them enough to buy their own instruments. The line-up follows the classic Beatles-type foursome, with a percussionist added, and will also provide the backing for the soulful blind vocalist P.K. Chishala. In a similarvein to the more familiar Bhundus or Four Brothers, Masasu's first UK album release was amongst the batch of Zambian material recently released on Demon Records’ Mondeca label. ‘Masasu’, by the way, is a street expression along the lines of ‘pure dead brilliantl’.
I THOMAS MAPFUMO (Zimbabwe) By far the most widely-recognised artist in all the Frontline states is Thomas Maplirmo, whose Seventies music, known as chimurenga, was an important component of the popular struggle against the injustice of Ian Smith’s minority white regime. Maplumo’s brooding blend of rock and traditional mbira (thumb piano) music creates a hypnotic and powerful weave, and he’ll be bringing overthe twelve-piece Blacks Unlimited complete with horn section and backing vocalists. His most recent album ‘Corruption’ on Island Records' Mango subsidiary shows that even after independence his fire is still burning.
12 The List 4 — 17 May 1990