South African jazz: Kheswa & Her Martians’ 'Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz'

By Hannah Gullickson,
Author Rating: 
4.5 Stars

Sizzling with heat and flair, Kheswa & Her Martians bring out the best in South African jazz in their debut album Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz.

Their album has a story behind the name. During the apartheid in South Africa, jazz was banned around the 1960s, but people would still gather for jazz in the hidden crags of their society, such as Johannesburg’s region of the Meadowlands, after which the album is named.

In the fifth track of this album, solo singer Nonhlanhla Kheswa attributes her album to those artists who kept the love of jazz flourishing strongly. In the 1970s and 1980s, jazz artists from South Africa would find refuge for their talent in London and New York City, where Kheswa grew up in the heart of Brooklyn and learned her craft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

This album captures the heart of this movement as Kheswa brings a heat as sizzling as the sun’s shimmering dusk. The first track “Tshona” feels like a cool martini night. As the saxophone sways to the rhythm, the melodies carry listeners into a candlelit realm. The second track “Qula Kwedini” brings out the grunge in Kheswa’s voice, and in “Nonhlanhla’s Kofifi Medley,” the piano exudes a classy feel of waltzing down the park.

Throughout the album, listeners can picture themselves dancing in unison, rejuvenating the years of lost jazz and spreading the joy of life as the band exudes a celebration of music. Although there are some flubs from the live recording, the music makes listeners want to shake to the trumpet or salsa-dance to the piano.



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