An Album Review of Suthukazi Arosi's 'Naked'
I first encountered Suthukazi musically when I watched one of her stage performances on YouTube. Quite theatrical and animated it was. And so on getting to learn of her album re-released under UbuntuFM Music, my interest was piqued to have a musical taste of what the new package holds. And it was worth the heightened expectation.
'Naked' begins with an introduction titled 'Bayete'. I don't know what it means but it sure sounds musically native South African and very much so. When listening to it, my mind conjured up an image of some rural African village in the wake of a morning. 'Bayete' is atmospheric, natural and telling. It fades into the next track on the list, 'Isoka Lami'.
It's more a fusion of South African folk with contemporary instrumental rhythm. You cannot help but join in the celebratory mood of the music.
Everyone knows Brenda Fassie; at least nearly everyone. Her theatrical performances of her songs laden with feeling stands out in the memory of her. 'Isoka Lami' reminded me of Brenda's style. It's more a fusion of South African folk with contemporary instrumental rhythm. You cannot help but join in the celebratory mood of the music. I know so because it happened to me, and still does whenever I play this very track. You may never understand a word of the native South Africa, but your soul will. Music, they say, speak more to the soul than to the ears. The chorus sounds audibly blissful. Nothing else could complement the lead vocals more.
Suthukazi's live performance at Bimhuis, Amsterdam.
Along the way, it struck me that Suthukazi's album, 'Naked', is an experimentation in music across genres. She fuses South African folk with other genres of music. It's quite ambitious, and since I enjoyed each of these experiments, I continued along the track list.
'Ayeza' is an experiment with Hip-Hip and South African folk. The lyrical chant is Folk and the solid beat is Hip-Hop. 'Unity' experiments with Jazz. This one blew my mind away. Jazz, for all that's said and assumed around it, is one genre whose merit rests upon cultured tastes and informed aesthetics. And when fused with the beauty of African Folk, we will be talking of milk and honey; sweet and mellowing to the senses. Play 'Unity' in a musical concert and you will take charge of the mood of the many in attendance.
'Naked', is an experimentation in music across genres. She fuses South African folk with other genres of music. It's quite ambitious
'Igeza Lendoda' is another blend of Jazz with Folk, but with a heightened tempo this time, very much on the fringes of contemporary Gospel. I'm most entertained by the saxophone interlude. The vocal tone is original and melodious.
'Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela' is Acapella in praise of Nelson Mandela's legacy; his lifelong struggle for his people against the inhumanity of apartheid. The vocals are natural and melodious and the lyrics are deep; more of a praise and admonition to the South African people. It's my expectation that this song will become a national treasure of the South African people. I would compare it with 'Phambili Africa (Tudua)', which speaks very much of Suthukazi's style in its lyrical admonitions for the African continent.
With an experimentation with RnB comes 'Black and White'. At least it starts out so at the beginning before veering sharply into South African Folk. Quite uncommon is the choice of instrumental sound instruments and their tasteful arrangement set against an engaging rhythm.
Blues as a genre may be fading away in its popularity; at least to the African audience. This didn't deter the spectrum of Suthukazi's musical experimentation across genres. Experimenting with South African Folk and Blues, she presents us with 'The Philosopher'. The lyrics are as melancholy and touching as they come, and I was moved by the piano play. Somewhere along the way, the music momentarily takes on a Jazz feel and then reverts back to Blues. This may likely be a pointer to Suthukazi's affinity for the Jazz genre. A study of her musical records may reveal as much.
Perhaps my assumption may be correct, for Suthukazi takes on Jazz again with the next track on the list, 'Naked'. It's a different style of Jazz from all the other experimentations with the genre. Dramatic beat, fast-paced, seamless rhythmic flow. I like the drumbeat. It's masterful and is in perfect synchrony with the vocal pace.
Yet again Jazz is offered with 'A Little Bit Of Love', but this time, with Disco. I never would expect Suthukazi's experiment to reach into something of an antique status but evidently she's one who respects no bounds when it comes to artistic expressions. One would imagine what a fusion of Jazz and Disco would sound like. I would have thought the same way too, but I couldn't keep still while 'A Little Bit Of Love' played. It's one of those music that invites your body to move in feeling to the music that floods your soul.
With this album has Suthukazi offered insight into her ambitious style with music. And in my opinion, she has achieved an artistic success with it and attained a legendary status for as far as Afrocentric music goes.
It's a whole lot different with 'Transeki'. The song is a chant in atmospheric background. The instrumental accompaniment, although sparse and consisting only of a subtle drumbeat and hand claps, is quite sufficient for the theatrical intention of the song. It's a mood which any African with a rural experience can relate with.
To wrap up the track list comes 'Isoka Lami'. It starts off with South African Folk but then takes on a contemporary Jazz mood. It's nothing short of Suthukazi's style, and expectedly so, especially when it's a song with which to bid farewell to the listener.
With this album has Suthukazi offered insight into her ambitious style with music. And in my opinion, she has achieved an artistic success with it and attained a legendary status for as far as Afrocentric music goes. 'Naked' has been included in my collection.
© 2018 Ikenna Chinedu Okeh