Words by Nigel Williamson
A well-grounded trio we’re sure you’ll dig
The sepia-tinted cover shots and period costumes provide a visual counterpart to the title of this album, the second by this South African vocal trio. And the music inside pays homage to the heritage of Sophiatown, the vibrant musical hub of Johannesburg’s township culture until it was ethnically cleansed in 1955 and its black population forcibly relocated. The uplifting harmonies knowingly evoke the era’s vocal groups, such as the Manhattan Brothers and the Skylarks. They channel the spirit of songs like ‘Mbube (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)’ but update it in a contemporary style, mixing hip-hop, R&B and Afro-pop with jazz and swing to ensure that The Soil never sound merely retro.
Totally a capella, with no instrumental accompaniment, the music’s rhythmic bass lines come, doo-wop style, from the resonant human beatboxing of Luphindo ‘Master P’ Ngxanga. They ground the enticing voices of his brother Ntsika and female vocalist Buhlebendalo Mda, who has the star quality of a South African Lauryn Hill. Ladysmith Black Mambazo turn up as guests on one track and by the time you read this, The Soil will have made their debut performance at WOMAD. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict a festival sensation.
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