CITY PRESS REVIEW: Jabu Hlongwane's new album offers a fresh gospel sound

2018-04-29 00:00
Jabu Hlongwane

Johannesburg - Jabu Hlongwane’s Crosspower Experience 3 isn’t like most gospel albums, on which musicians choose to regurgitate familiar church hymns.

Many gospel singers often go for the usual folk songs and hymns to make a quick buck off religious fans, who, in fairness, take up a significant chunk of the music market. Sometimes gospel musos even use previous singers’ dry gospel beats. For Crosspower Experience 3, Hlongwane wrote most of the songs – from the lyrics through to his experimentation with various music genres. The latter are particularly unique for a gospel album, and are likely to test fans’ ability to tolerate and accommodate new sounds and rhymes – particularly those who believe gospel is sacrosanct and should not be spoilt.

Hlongwane is careful not to alienate his fans and gospel lovers in general, by giving them at least two songs using the normal gospel tempo of arm waving and a singalong spirit. Gospel lovers often prefer such kinds of songs and unwittingly force musicians to write their songs by copying the older gospel generation.

To the traditional gospel music lovers, Hlongwane gives Moya ka Jehovah, Let it Rain, I’ll Run to Him and As You Are.

But with the rest of his songs on the album, he has dared to deviate from the gospel norm.

The track Tsa tsa Konkhe is an especially risky affair. He takes gospel to a different level and incorporates R&B. It’s such a fresh sound that you’re forced to listen not only to the unfamiliar beat, but also to the lyrics that are equally captivating.

Hlongwane also ups the pulse of the album with the song You Reign, which should force fans to stand up and sing. And he has ventured into introducing different instruments and varieties with the tempo more than twice, leaving you wondering whether you’re on a disco floor.

Hlongwane deserves a pat on the back for creativity, particularly with regards to lyrics. There’s truly a sense of creativity and hard work coming through. Often musicians of all kinds are lazy writers when it comes to crafting proper lyrics that compliment the beat, never mind making the song worth a listener’s precious time.

Often they expect the beat to do their work for them after three to six lines of some obscure lyrical message – and that’s if you’re lucky.

With this album, you get the sense that there’s been a genuine effort to weave in messages that resonate with audiences’ religious and personal experiences.

Those fans who read the Bible often enough will most likely notice that some of the “wise words” in the songs’ lyrics reflect verses from the books of Acts and Psalms, among others.

It’s quite a treat to listen to a gospel album turned on its head, one that leaves you satisfied with its originality and the experimentation with an understanding of R&B within the gospel genre.

This album deserves an unshaken four out of five stars for its melody variety, its creative beats and amazing lyrics.

It’s definitely going to challenge your knowledge of established gospel music.

Jabu Hlongwane: Crosspower Experience 3 (live recording)

R99.99 at iTunes

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