BBE are going to be releasing a swathe of hard to find records from the great African continent and they begin with this super-rare and cooking album from South Africa’s Kabasa. ‘African Sunset’ was originally released in 1982 on the quickly defunct Lyncell Records label so this really is a diggers dream. The band came together in Soweto and comprised of vocalist and bassist Tata “TNT” Sibeko, guitarist Robert “Doc” Mthalane and percussionist Oupa Segwai, recording three potent long players in early-80s Johannesburg. Once part of the iconic Afro-rock band Harari, Mthalane and Segwai teamed up with Sibeko for Kabasa’s debut in 1980 changing their sound to suit the disco era.
’African Sunset’ would be their third and final album and is honestly difficult to pigeonhole. Afro-rock, jazz, boogie and disco-funk is melded with instantly recognisable South African vocals and traditional sounds. The newest member, percussionist and flautist Mabote “Kelly” Petlane really adds to the quality of the songwriting and his lines are superb throughout. This is (trigger warning) fusion at it’s best.
Guitarist Robert “Doc” Mthalane has been described as the Jimi Hendrix of South Africa but to be frank, I don’t see that. His style is harder to define. At times when he’s rocking out (on ‘Walking In The Jungle’), Funkadelic/Parliament’s Eddie Hazel comes to mind but then he can flip to a 80s hip post-punk jangle and shimmering sound reminiscent of Roxy Music’s Ray Manzanera or Talking Heads especially on ‘Awundiva’, a performance dripping with melodies and hooks that lovers of current artists like Conan Mockasin or sensual AOR would pull beach faces to.
Opener (see top) ‘Rainbow Children’ kicks off like it’s going to move into jazz rock territory but quickly locks into a heavy funk groove with a nod to Richie Havens’’Going Back To My Roots’. There are obvious American references throughout the record but South Africa is always there, ‘Mafeteng’ is pure township jive and is really quite something. Cosmic (even Santana-esque) depth is added by keyboardist Madoda Malothana and he can truly switch on the funk with a star turn on the angular ‘Happy To Be Me’, the arrangement and playing absolutely nailed into a dancefloor bomb. It needs stating how full this record sounds, the album is self-produced by the band and stands tall next to much of the best of the time. Rock solid with power and nuance, this is going to sound serious on an audiophile system or PA, the rhythm section alone will appease the party!
‘African Sunset’ stands out in the currently swamped African reissue market due to it’s accomplished songwriting and production but also because it doesn’t sound like much out there. This isn’t Afro-disco or particularly traditional though it contains touches of both. Kabasa by this stage are a band at the height of their powers, confident, swaggering and prepared to try ideas less able musicians would baulk at. As you can tell, it’s grown on me. A lot.
The double gatefold Vinyl / CD / Download will be released on May 24th
*Listen to snippets of the album here - https://www.juno.co.uk/products/kabasa-african-sunset/719418-01/
Pre-Order here - https://www.bbemusic.com/downloads/african-sunset/