Change is Good

2009-10-06 09:23
Judith Sephuma

For the most part, her latest album, Change is Here was informed by those encounters.

"So many people came up to me, at gigs and in the street and told me how much they adored that song so when it came to the new album it seemed a natural fit to go to my roots," Sephuma explains.

What she had actually imagined is primarily a non- English album. Take her A Cry, A Smile, A Dance record for instance, or any of her previous two albums with more of the non-English pieces. The album had been a schlepper alright, as the rest of band had to be flown in from Timbuktu and would not exactly play until Judith herself did a shrink, and spurred (the diva out of) what could have been a grumpy band, divarish even. They were overt prima donnas about it.

Strictly for the birds! Judith herself would suitably react "I don't do Timbuktu bands. I had a fantastic local band, and they were anything but grumpy, and they slaved away without any of the prodding."

"Recording is always fun when you love what you do. I worked with musicians that I have known for a while. We were in the studio for at least two months," she says.

Of course, the bits about a prima donna band could merely have been said only in sport. The band, in earnest, comprised a crop of some renowned players, some of which are Judith's pals from her varsity days in Cape Town. But there had been some tardiness, even though Judith can explain it away.

"Truly, there was no reason at all for the wait" says Judith when I ask her about the three year sabbatical. "Everything works well for the good, in good time. I believe in good time. Just something that had to be done in that time and obviously taking a break in the middle of recording so that we're not fatigued and always have fresh ideas.”

By some accounts, Judith spent the better part of last year conceptualising the album. Perhaps that's to ensure that there are no remixes (read fillers), that it's a world away from racket, that the writing is devoid of any corny ideas, and that there aren't any bozos playing (and arranging) on it - in which case she then wouldn't be without scruple about recording it.

"Naturally i know earlier on from the first few chords or opening bars if a song is a song i'm gonna sing" Sephuma had riffed in the past. "Songs have to be singable and if my kids can sing along, and relate, then I know I'm on the right track."

Produced by Selaelo Selota, Sephuma's former husband, the album - for the most part - has been compared to her debut, A Cry, A smile, A Dance. And it does - by way of production anyway - harken back to this brekathrogh sucess: a small ensemble, some frugal synth work, more non-English songs. Judith says it was deliberate.

Selota's appearance, however, isn't as completely expected. His real appeal, Sephuma says, is his feel for the organic sound. "We have a musical history you know. It even goes back as far back as Polokwane before I even came to Joburg. The thing with him is he uses a very dry sound which exposes you, so when you sing it must be good."

"I suggested the idea of us working together again to him (Selaelo) about a year before the recording" related Judith about the recording experience. "I, however, didn't want to do what I did with my previous album, New Beginnings.... Somehow, in the intervening period, it so happened I didn't do much about that. So, it panned out it was actually Selaelo who eventually went to Sony BMG first and approached them about the idea."

"When I thought about recording mostly in Sepedi, Selaelo was the only person who seemed just right for the job – he just understands where I am coming from and it made the studio work very easy and natural."

Recording in Sepedi sure takes some beating if you have no wish to alienate your audience? "I listen to what my fans say. They email me on my website and we talk about some of my activities… The album's not entirely a Pedi album anyway, there's also a Zulu song for example - [and a ] couple of English songs as well...."

The album is also a partnership between Judith's own new label, Lalomba Music and Sony BMG Africa, her longtime record company. Judith says she wanted to be as involved with production as well as the record deal itself.

"I've come to realise that releasing an album is also about business and with Lalomba Music I have the opportunity to really extend myself in that direction. Lalomba is not just a recording label; it's also an artist management company. There's also a beauty spa and a perfume range on the works."

Between records - the last two records anyway - Judith Sephuma's often ran into the proverbial fan-with-some-advice. "You should write more in Sepedi" they coaxed her, reacting to the vernacular ditty "Mme Motswadi"- one of the singles off her second album.
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