Keleketla, "Keleketla!" (Ninja Tunes)
Keleketla isn't a group. It's a studio assemblage of British, South African, Nigerian, American and more musicians that recorded mostly in South Africa and England, produced by the English electronic-music duo Coldcut.
From its beginnings in the 1980s, Coldcut — Matt Black and Jonathan More — has embraced far-reaching sampling and genre-mixing, with an ear for African-diaspora music old and new: soul, funk, reggae, hip-hop, house, acid jazz, techno, jungle and more.
The "Keleketla!" album ticks all the boxes that distinguish collaboration from exploitation. Coldcut was invited to record in South Africa by the Keleketla Library, an arts archive, educational workshop and performance space in Johannesburg. (In the Sepedi language, "keleketla" means the "response" in call-and-response.) On the album, the African and Black musicians have their voices up front, carrying messages in African languages along with English.
Each track finds a different cultural mesh. Coldcut's expertise surrounds Yugen Blakrok, from South Africa, in "Crystalise" as she raps about solitude, cosmic connections, communal memory and personal strength over music that draws on breakbeats and "What's Going On."
The album's masterstroke is a choice of personnel: Tony Allen — who died in April, the drummer for Fela Kuti in the Nigerian bands that originated Afrobeat in the 1960s and 1970s — is on five tracks.
"Shepherd Song" has a metronomic pulse, but also hints at Ghanaian high life and jazz. And "Freedom Groove" creates a perpetually tumbling momentum while Father Amde Hamilton, of California's Watts Prophets, preaches about freedom and materialism, answered by the horns of the Brooklyn Afrobeat band Antibalas.
Coldcut's presence is ubiquitous; the duo put all the scattered pieces of Keleketla together. But the thoroughly hybridized music makes clear that in Africa, Coldcut was ready to listen above all.
Jon Pareles, New York Times
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