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Mzansi Women Sing Gospel

2009-09-15 09:29
Mzansi Women Sing Gospel
It's best to say now – before getting started – that this is an album for gospel fans. Casual listeners of the genre won’t find anything to pull them out of indifference and those with an aversion to the genre will want to stay even farther away.

Having said that, it also helps to be a fan of the Lusanda Spiritual Group.  With a hold on five out of the 16 songs of praise and worship, the sound of Lusanda Mcinga and her award-winning choir is pervasive on the album. Their brand of "Zion" tenor choir chants over keyboards twist around the Gospel queen's vocals, bringing to mind the image of scorching Sunday mornings spent in the company of old women in bright tunics, elated and heaving, breaking a sweat to the rhythm of township worship. Lusanda is an impassioned, involved vocalist and her compositions – as well as the way she sings/plays them – always manage to pull the gospel fan into a nostalgic embrace. Hers are the songs of the mother’s and grandmothers who came from before – they ‘return’ from a far-off, but familiar place and through the lyrics, arrangements and delivery, she gives us an approximation of how they must have felt in the grips of devotion.

Between these songs, the rest of the album is evenly spaced with conventional gospel songs performed by little known, up-and-coming, and popular artists alike. Thandiswa Mazwai performs "Revelation", a jazzy, celebratory song which also featured in her debut solo Zabalaza. Then there’s Mpume, a theatre performer who sings her "Ncincede Ndingene" with an inflection and intensity similar to that of Lusanda Spiritual Group. Linah Khama, who performs with her husband Hash'elimhlophe, goes the same way with a recognizable, hymn-ready song about turning her back on ‘sin’ forever. The Alfa Singers offer a twist on the Ringo favourite, "Sondela" in "Ndiyamthanda LoThixo," switching the lyrics – albeit not very craftily – to a love of a different order.

Mzansi Women Sing Gospel isn't monumental. It's passable fair for gospel aficionados and it might tweak a casual listener’s interest by introducing them to new voices. Other than that not much is offered for the general music fan – much less the general music fan with secular ears.

It may feature both Lusanda Spiritual Group and Thandiswa Mazwai, but ‘Mzansi Women Sing Gospel’ could have done with more diversity.

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