Siphokazi - Ndinovuyo
Her piercing, grainy vocals set against gently rocking backing singers, perfectly paced beats, long phrases and the spiritual sense of joyful ubuntu still define the earlier tracks on this follow-up to 2006's quieter (and multi-award-winning) Ubuntu Bam.
Siphokazi's universal South African compositions blend maskandi elements, traditional Xhosa melodies and jazziness with her personal energy - a snappy, proud vibe that's hard to describe, but easy to raise your arms to.
This isn't the kind of cutesy African music that you'll see tourists filming in sandles and socks at Greenmarket Square, although thorough liner notes will help fill in the cultural dongas.
, for all its energy and despite a few lovely tracks that smoothly push the boundaries between jazz and traditional ("Usizwi Lwam", the awesome title track and "Ayongcikingciki"), seems to largely have abandoned the playfully off-centre vocal subtlety of Ubuntu Bam
and jumped onto the "world" market bandwagon. The result is an array of mostly co-written (or cover) tracks that seem to explain themselves instead of letting the music do the talking ( "Mama 4Life") or that sound soppy more than moving ("Ngiyohlala Ngikuthanda"). This may be the right move, commercially, but then the album's packaging should be up to international standards. And it's not - the liner notes need a thorough copy edit (it's guitar riffs, not "reefs") and the though the publicity cover shots used are pretty hot, the colour wash (or printing) makes Siphokazi's eyes' whites look brown.
Impressive collaborators include some top talent in songwriting and performance, and once again producer / maskandi guitarist Lawrence Matshiza, who manages to bring a slightly mixed bag of songs together, going a bit more heavy-handed on the maskandi sound this time round. It works, but not as well as his harder-to-box production on her debut.
Ndinovuyo is an essential collectors' item, but not a South African classic. So if you're just discovering Siphokazi's talents, Ubuntu Bam is the one to seek out.