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Masekela’s Afro-Jazz

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hedzoleh_cover.jpg afraid_cover.jpg

Hugh Masekela : Kaa Ye Oya
taken from the album “Introducing Hezoleh Soundz” on Blue Thumb (1973)

Hugh Masekela : Night In Tunisia
taken from the album “I Am Not Afraid” on Blue Thumb (1974)

Somewhat slept on, these two records are pretty easy to find and HIGHLY rewarding. Hugh Masekela, a South African jazz legend, gives special thanks to Fela on the Hedzoleh liner notes and it’s pretty clear why. Recorded in Fela’s EMI studio in Lagos, Nigeria, the whole album is a major break from most of his other work. Masekela put out plenty of other funky and signifigant records, but none that follow in Fela’s footsteps so blatantly. The tracks are all long drawn out grooves, generally sung in African languages (not sure which ones) rather than English, and the rhythm section is derived from the same native 6/8 bounce that made up Juju and Fiji music (even though Hedzoleh is from Ghana, not Nigeria). The mood here is definitely more subdued than most of Fela’s work, but the trouble-making politics and trance-inducing song structures are definitely right in line with the newly formed Afro-beat mode. The songs I’m giving you don’t highlight Masekela’s rebelious side as clearly, but song’s like “When”, “African Secret Society”, & “Stimela” (which was used in the recent Amandla! documentary) show that Hugh was certainly no puppet to the industry.

Hugh met Fela in 1970 when he was on tour with his wife Miriam Makeba in Guinea. It was Fela who introduced him to the Ghanian group Hedzoleh. Some of those same musicians accompanied him for the “I Am Not Afraid” album, and “The Boys Doin It” (1975) which has “Mama” and a couple other good Afro-funk tunes on it. The man is still putting out records too. I haven’t heard the latest, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that it won’t be on the same level as this material. Do we really have to get old?

E.P. update- you can now find the wax at Groove Distribution online (yeah!).