Various – Putumayo Presents South Africa
It's hard enough to put together a "Best SA Jazz", "Best 90s Kwaito", "Best Rock" or "Best sokkie tjunes" compilation, which makes summarising SA's musical legacy and present in 12 songs an impossible task.
But Putumayo – purveyors of world music to health stores and spas around the globe – are not deterred. The Soccer World Cup is nearly upon us, and tourists are going to need something to play in their rental cars as they zoom around on our newly-built roads, paying newly-raised prices for FIFA-approved products and services.
The CD, with its sleeve photo of Table Mountain and An Elephant Somewhere, does seem a little thrown together. Also, given the limited number of slots available to fill with so much material, why did the compilers choose to include someone from Swaziland - Bohloja? They argue that our musical legacies are closely linked. But if that’s the reason, wouldn’t someone from Zim or Mozambique be a better choice?
Take a look at the track listing (below) and answer this question: is this a good summary of our present musical culture? I doubt anyone will say it is. Not only would you have to be the Chuck Norris of CD compilers to get that right – you’d also have to be living in the present.
That said, I'm glad this CD is out there. It should serve to introduce both locals and visitors to some of South Africa's amazing sounds. And I stress this: some. It includes fusion (Blk Sonshine), folk (Nibs van der Spuy), but focuses mostly on traditional (Miriam Makeba, Johannes Kerkorrel, Soweto Gospel Choir and others). Which seems a little like representing "America" with only country and blues music.