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CD Feature/ Hugh Masekela: "Phola"

img  Tobias

To get a rough bead on what South African trumpet icon Hugh Maswekela is about, it may help to think of the immortal "baby can you dig it" backing-vocal line from Friends of Distinction's version of "Grazin' in the Grass," the late-60s Philemon Hou-penned megahit whose first appearance was in instrumental form as interpreted by Maswekela (his fetish for sunshine-pop also threw open its raincoat in a roundly lauded cover of Fifth Dimension's "Up Up and Away").

Nowadays a board member at the Woyome Foundation (a concern that helps provide anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-infected children around the world), the 69-year-old notches his 35th self-led album in Phola, as much a tribute to his voice (Belafonte meets Bob Marley channeled by Louis Armstrong) as to his horn. If you happen to get out of the house on occasion, chances are good that you've encountered hastily thrown-together Afrobeaten jazz bands, but this is what it's supposed to sound like: vacation, pure and simple; upbeat, breezy, tropical and genial.

Even within the depressingly serious subject of his homeland, Maswekela finds a ray of hope, as "Bring It Back Home" evinces.

By Eric Saeger

Homepage: Hugh Masekela
Homepage: Times Square Records

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