Outernational Meltdown

THE INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION THAT CHANGED THE HISTORY OF

SOUTH AFRICAN MUSIC

 

Outernational Meltdown - Paul Bradshaw (Straight No Chaser)

This text originally appeared in Straight No Chaser, is reproduced here with permission, and is also available in print as a special 'Sidewinder' supplement.

Click here to download the article - courtesy of Straight No Chaser 

 

As post apartheid South Africa celebrates the first anniversary of the free elections, 'Straight No Chaser' is proud to present this story of collusion and collaboration. When we heard that a group of musicians including Airto Moreira was heading fo the new South Africa to play and record with local musicians and spiritual healers it screamed, "the perfect Straight No Chaser story!"

What both Peter Williams and myself encountered was deeper and more illuminating that we could ever have expected. It was a humbling experience to walk the streets of conflict that we'd watched, for over 20 years, in endless news reports was indeed strange. For the people of South Africa the politics of the post apartheid era are frustrating, but they are an optimistic, proud people schooled in struggle. Overcoming the isolation that was forced upon them during the apartheid era has taken its toll but today, in 1995, we have a responsibility to help break that isolation. We at The Chaser are happy and priveleged to help convey the spirit of openness that exists amongst the people of South Africa and illuminate the positive creative energy that has been unleashed. Amanla.

This piece is dedicated to Nelson Mandela and the ANC, the late Joe Slovo, and all those people, young and old who lost their lives, or were scarred by the racist, apartheid regime in South Africa and their former allies around the globe. The struggle continues.


Airto in action during a visit to the studio


Outernational Meltdown text by Paul Bradshaw, first published in Straight No Chaser

September 1993 - Jo'burg South Africa

With his mind and body still resonating from the sounds conjured up during the performance of Fourth World, the Brazilian percussionist attempted to make a polite escape from the back stage area. But somehow, one voice the voice of an old man, rose gently above a sea of congratulatory noise to slip into Airto Moreira's well-guarded consciousness.

"Welcome to Africa, you are truly a gifted one " said the voice.

A look of embarrassment flashed across the percussionist's rugged bearded face. Early on in their set a fine drizzle had begun to fall and, as the rain intensified, the crowd at this outdoor event had begun to drift for cover. Seizing the moment his wife, dazzling Brazilian songstress, Flora Purim announced with more than a touch of humour that Airto would deliver a chant to ease the rain. Accompanied soley by the distinctive, metallic, rhythmic vibrations of the Berimbau, his invocation rose into the heavens. The downpour ceased.

"No not me, I could never be so, so as to think I could ever stop the rain", he declared looking into the eyes of the old man who quickly replied: "In Africa rain is very important. Rain is life. when a child is born and it rains, that child is a very gifted one." When you started playing it began to rain then you sang for the rain to stop and it stopped. So we know you are a gifted one. Welcome to Africa."

Outernational Meltdown - 1994 Johannesburg Airport - a year later


Airto had left long-time collaborator and guitarist José Neto in Cape Town and, along with two new school London based musicians, trumpeter Byron Wallen and drummer Andrew Missingham, was awaiting a flight back to Europe.

The previous twelve days had been spent immersed in a myriad of exhilarating, unprecedented musical exchanges and conversations in both the recording studio and live onstage. They were all still reeling with the feeling. Airto was in a reflective mood. He has played with a host of eclectic geniuses from Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to Hermeto Pascoal and Mickey Hart, but prior to those Fourth World concerts in 1993 he had never played in Africa.

"I'd always wanted to play in Africa, " he announced over a guava juice and thinking back he laughed. "that old man I met at the Jo'burg concert, he told me nobody comes to South Africa without a mission and this time, I feel I came here on a mission and the mission is really happening. Just what we did this time shows me the incredible potential that exists here. The people here have been really isolated. they have been starved of music from other parts of the globe and they are ready for it, they want to know what is happening, who is happening, they want to be part of the whole thing."

For the fifty three-year-old Airto, this trip was an opportunity to create understanding: to prove that black and white can come together without being afraid. without the fear and mistrust that divides people not just in post-apartheid South Africa, but from Rio to London to LA - all round the world. Unlike the entourages of UB40, Sting and Whitney Houston, who simply arrived in South Africa did what they had to do and left after making a few noises about how they insisted on local musicians as support acts, this modest group of musicians signed to a small independent UK label came to establish a lasting dialogue.

Outernational Meltdown - Hungry On Arrival

Fana Zulu lays down the bassline for 'Hungry On Arrival" (also on Music With No Name)

The studio's in downtown Jo'burg are owned by Gallo Records, a record company that has the rights to around eighty percent of all the music ever recorded in South Africa. Outside the studio, musicians and friends were still discussing the previous days conflict between transport strikers and the police. Frustrations were voiced, as musicians they were vexed at the lack of venues, the lack of support from sponsors - especially compared with foreign acts - and how it all conspired to prevent the development of the music and a new generation of players emerging. From behind a pair of mirrored shades Airto retorted, "it's everywhere man ! Rio - it's dead, there's nothing happening. Even in the States there's nowhere for a new generation to play and reach that higher level."



 

Inside, the gold and platinum discs that lined the walls of the downtown studio reveal this is where the Soul Brothers, Tananas, Ladyship Black Mambazo and Mathlatini and the Mohotella Queens recorded their finest albums. It was midday and the main studio was already a hive of activity. In a small mixing studio Adrian Hamilton, a young producer, was playing tapes to label boss, Robert Trunz. Despite the constrictions of commercialism, the enticing fusion of Suthukazi Arosi's voice, samples made from field recordings of people singing and working in Transkei, and programmed beats was innovative and laced with promise. Meanwhile in the main studio mixing room one of the producers, the founder of Sakhile and legendary bass man, Sipho Gumede, was listening back to a jam that had carried the musicians into the early hours of that morning. A dangerous b-line, courtesy of Fana Zulu, was framed by Andrew Missingham's fatback drums and Byron's muted horn darted back and forth. Airto peppered the rhythm with sounds, adding new highlights and momentum as did the minimalist punctuations of pianist Moses Molelekwa. These guys had only been in the country eighteen hours. They were indeed hungry.

Outernational Meltdown - Moses : Nobohle/Migrant Workers

Through the studio window the musicians were already hard at it. There were two tunes on the go. The 21 year old Sowetan, Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, is definitely a modern heir to Abdullah Ibrahim tradition, and his composition, 'Nobohle', meandered majestically, casting melodic shadows that brought smiles to the faces of all involved.

 

 

In a total different vein was a song dedicated to the migrant workers and written by saxophonist/flute player Zim Ngqawana. The percussive intro conjured up visions of dust clouds generated by stamping Zulu feet and through the clouds came the impassioned voice of Shaluza 'Max' Mntambo. A harmonica provided the bridge into a more up tempo beat but the five man horn section failed to meet the challenge and fell apart to roars of laughter.

Outernational Meltdown - Valerie Naranjo : Migrant Workers

Valerie Naranjo
On congas was a woman. A djembe drum was tied to around her waist and propped against the wall beside her was a balaphon, she bore an uncanny resemblance to Valerie Naranjo who we'd interviewed way back in the Summer of 1989. At that time she was playing vibes with New York Latin jazz combo, Carabali, but there was the same mane of hair, the same gently sculpted native American cheekbones, the same intense aura.

"Who's the conga player"? I enquired of Fana. "She's called Valerie...I dont know her second name. "

Valerie Naranjo had been in Jo'burg studying and playing since the Guinness Jazz Festival, three months earlier, and her presence in the session was a positive, vibrant addition to an already outernational mix. Her experiences amid the swift improvisations of Carabali and in her marimba group, combined with a deep knowledge gained while studying balaphon in Ghana, came to bear as she responded to the delicate interplay between the two guitarists - José Neto and a founder member of Bayete, Maskanda guitarist, Johnny Chonco. Negotiating a way between their fleet fingered flurries and circular melodies was no easy feat. It was the kind of playing we grew to accept as the norm and it generated a rolling wave of enthusiasm and broad smiles.

 

 
 
 Outernational Meltdown - Pops Mohamed : Healers Brew

If music is the healing force of the universe then in South Africa it has a special role. This is a nation where a spiritual undercurrent underpins everything, where tribal traditions are tuned to the past present and future through the spirits of the ancestors - the Amadlozi. Coming from the spirit tradition in Brasil, where his father was a healer, Airto was naturally keen to make contact on a musical level with this tradition in South Africa.

Appropriately, a day of special recordings had been arranged. Through Pops Mohammed (one of the producers), a multi- instrumentalist with a love of mbira (Zimbawean thumb piano) and didgeridoo, there was to be a session with a group of sangomas - traditional healers, the direct line to the spirit world and the ancestors of the sky people - the Zulus. He had worked with them at the massive ANC rallies prior to the elections.

Sipho, who is based on the coast in Durban, had also organised a 17 piece vocal choir, Intethelelo Yabazalwane (Forgiveness For Fellowship). They were the first to arrive at the studio. Their leader Bro Sondlo 'ShaluzaPaul' Ngcobo explained that their Ethiopian Holy Baptist Church had been in existence for 15 years, that they were "ordinary people" - they had jobs or were at school or were housewives - and they were affiliated to the Zionist Church. For the youth they provide an alternative to the street and being gangsters. With them, "there is just love and music".

Outernational Meltdown - Intethelelo : Healer's Brew


Bongani Ngcobo, Free At Last

 

"We are spiritual healers. Yes we are christian but here we have our own history and we pay respects to the ancestors. But God is above all our traditions. If someone has a problem or they are ill they come to our church for guidance and help. We go to their house, we fast, we sing and as long as it takes for the Holy Spirit to tell us the solution. Sometimes it can take days ... weeks."

Unlike the Sangomas they do not charge a fee. They offer verbal solutions to the problem or in some cases a kind of alchemy where the pure spring water they use takes on medicinal purposes. Like other churches, the choir of Intethelelo Yabazalwane have released four albums under their own name. Their 'Imani Isibindi' cassette (which is dedicated to the people of South Africa as they enter a new era and the title means "be courageous") sold around 7000 copies. On the cover they are all dressed in white except for the green sashes- and green turbans worn by the women - but on this day they were dressed in normal clothes. They crowded into the recording booth and without prompting delivered a string of delicious songs of praise in pure acapella, laced together with astonishing layers of harmonies and percussive vocal sounds. Each song featured the impassioned lead vocals of a barefoot 18 year old, Bongani Ngcobo. The choir never use instruments but were surprisingly open to experimentation. A range of improvised scenarios spanned one song with male only vocals to a vocal duet that featured Bro Paul and Bongani who made up the song on the spot. It was this duet that was to become an extended, ecstatic improvisation with Airto, Pops and Byron.

Outernational Meltdown - Sipho Gumede

In between takes, sitting with Sipho and Bro Paul Ngcoba, a gentle bear-like man, Sipho explained how he'd come into contact with the Intethelelo Yabazalwane. Sipho is a legend on the SA jazz scene. Between 1975 and 1981 he was an integral member of the celebrated jazz outfit, Spirits Rejoice. Emerging out of Port Elizabeth, the band also saxman Robbie Jansen, keyboards from Mervyn Afrika, mesmerising pianist Bheki Mseleku and guitarist Russell Herman (now Bheki's manager).

But it was Gumede's band Sakhile with its exhilarating fusion of funk, jazz and indigenous musics that achieved fame globally. However after Sakhiles Sipho's world collapsed around him. He moved from the humdrum vibe of Jo'burg to Durban. He readily admitted that he stopped writing music, that his home life was a misery and despite being deeply sceptical of organised religion met and consulted bro Paul. Sipho was desperate.

"Through the Intheledo Yabazalwane bro' Paul told me, 'Your wife is not your wife; she is not the one chosen for you by God," said Sipho, with an openness and honesty that was totally disarming. He left his wife, who he says he loved dearly, and the storm passed. His life changed. While still reeling from this encounter, I was introduced to the five Sangomas, two brothers and three women ...

Outernational Meltdown - Sangomas : Healer's Brew

"I am Suzan" said a powerful looking woman who also offered me her phone number should I need consultation, "I am Jessie Jane and this is Dorcas," announced another woman quietly. She was carrying a drum made from a car wheel. Wrapped around their shoulders or waists were fabrics printed with lions, elephants or simplified motifs of shields and spears. The youngest of two young men, also carrying a drum, was called Abel. He was saying little gently surveying the scenario. The other, Esau Maluleke, wore a Davy Crockett fur hat and a penetrating stare.

Once in the recording booth they switched their street clothes for traditional dress. Their presence was magnified as they revealed themselves in plumed head dress's and toting fly whisks with short spears. They were adorned with complex, patterned beads and protective amulets. They gathered in a circle beneath the microphone. As they knelt on the floor, khambas (traditional beer pots) before them Suzan launched into a spoken but charged invocation that was to stir the spirit world, praise the god of the sky, Nkulunkulu, and bless the season in progress. Incense was burned as the hair whisk flashed through the air. The drums were like rolling thunder.

Outernational Meltdown - Life On The Reef

Life on the reef is hard. The stories from the drum magazine, collected together in Mike Nicol's hefty volume 'A Good Looking Corpse - Jazz Gangsters, Hope & Defiance In The Townships Of Africa' should be required reading for all visitors. They paint a startlingly accurate picture of contemporary Jo'burg despite being written thirty years earlier. In winter Jo'burg is icy cold and during the summer the heat is stifling. Unemployment stands at around fifty per cent. The main residential area in the city, was once populated by the white business community.

Today, the main business there is crime and prostitution. The legacy of the organised gangs, like the Russians, Americans and the Berliners from the fifties and sixties lives on. Then, the local rude boys were called tsotsis, and in 1995, their heirs, charged-up on an unlikely concoction of dagga (cannabis) and Mandrax, ensure the crime rate spirals ever upward. Max Mntambo told of how a group of Japanese tourists had recently been robbed at AK47 gun point adjacent to Jo'burg's main shopping mall. We were warned not to wander and told to be careful but in a five day span a German photographer, Peter Williams, and his film-making compadre were robbed at knife point in a busy market place. They learnt the hard way.

When the photographer and film maker stepped into a desolate Jo'burg police station to report their loss they were told, "We have the second highest crime rate in the world, you wouldn't wander around the Bronx taking photos would you?" Their interview was terminated when a young, white police officer was carried into the station wrapped in a blanket by several other police officers and laid unceremoniously on the floor, he was dead. Another statistic in a war that has claimed the life of a police officer every two weeks for the past twelve months.

Outernational Meltdown - Megamusic

Meanwhile, the rest of the posse were gathered at Jo'burg's MegaMusic complex for a performance which transplanted the spontaneous musical experiences from the downtown studio to the stage. The Sangomas both opened and closed the session amid a tropical storm of percussion and sound that crackled with vitality. Sandwiched between was a flow of generous, ego-free performances that maintained the vigilant open minded spirit of jazz musicians worldwide. The surprise set came from Durban based Madala Kunene, who was backed by Sipho's band which featured three effervescent women vocalists and the fearsome percussion ofMabi Gabriel Thobejane. Madala (an affectionate moniker that translates as "old man") is a healer, an accomplished and individual acoustic guitarist and a singer. He - like Malis' Ali Farka Toure - possessed the vibe of an African bluesman. What he played sounded like the blues, despite the fact that he says he'd never really heard any, and that his only real influence was his father a Kwela/Marabi guitarist. Offstage, Madala's movements reflect his name but onstage the singer was possessed with a different life force. If there is any justice we will be hearing much more from this man.

Zim's spiralling horn playing was a reminder of how the spirit of Coltrane was alive and well in Jo'burg. Max Mntambo and his spar stepped on stage to inject the presence of the migrant workers. They dropped some serious dance moves, moves that are perfected each and every sunday during the competitions between the miners' hostels. Valerie Naranjo's ethereal piece on balaphon prompted the sangoma, Esau to murmur gently, "This music is going to the other side!". Indeed, both the living and the ancestors were on a high that night.

Outernational Meltdown - Cape Town

L : The view from Table Mountain with Robben Island in the distance
R : Market Street, Cape Town - photos for Sipho Gumede's album Ubuntu were taken in this area


Jo'burg had been an intense experience and to round it off a viscous hail storm had battered the plane on take off. As we stepped from the plane and onto the runway at Cape Town airport there was a collective sigh of relief. It was warm and a dramatic ridge of mountains rose like a dragon's back against the skyline.

The journey into Cape Town was impressive. Nature has a way of imposing itself and we had touched down on a place that possessed genuine physical energy and power. Here, that great land mass, the continent of Africa, stood firm against the combined force of the Atlantic and the Indian oceans. It seemed remarkable that one could virtually see the meeting of the two oceans, one cold and one warm. As we drove into the city, José Neto scanned the sight of those small communities of shoddy impoverished housing erected by squatters. Poverty is the same the world over and he had been thrown back on his own youth in Sao Paolo, Brasil; "Man, that looks just like where we used to play football as kids and then afterward we would go into the favela (slum) and listen to the older guys play music. We learned a lot there."

We dumped our bags at a hotel that possessed the calm confidence of colonialism, named after Lord Nelsons mistress. One Lady Hamilton, and the walls were adorned with pictures of steamships which would have serviced the colonial classes with a connection to other parts of Africa, India and their own origins in Europe. Behind the hotel, the sheer face of Table Mountain rose into a flat cushion of cloud framed against a clear blue sky.

Outernational Meltdown - Life's A Beach

Max, Byron and Moses on a Cape Town beach that was once forbidden to Blacks

No work had been planned for that day. Following another eye-popping drive we eventually piled out onto an expansive stretch of beach. Virtually empty of people, most of whom were white, were taking in the cool of the evening and the spectacular sunset .

Two young surf/skate dudes approached me in the hope of buying my old skool Puma sneakers. I politely declined their generous offer and asked how the changes had effected them."What changes?" they replied. "Oh, the elections, that doesn't really effect us." Oblivious to a future that demanded their involvement and saw no relationship between their lives and that of those from the townships of Mannenburgor Gugelethu.

They were poles apart from a young white Jo'burg paramedic who had pointed to the spot where he had been arrested for talking to a black friend and described the election results as "the best thing that has ever happened in South Africa." This duo were only interested in watching the surf come up and the latest style report in imported copies of The Face. Most likely they were the sons of those cape Afrikaans who were, in the dawn of 1995, to protest about black students being bussed into their local schools. The complexity of cape politics was revealed during the pre-election period when the ANC had failed to overcome the divisive history of apartheid and unite the so called coloured community with the black community. They had even inflamed fears amongst the capes "coloured" voters. De Klerk's National Party couldn't believe their luck.

Outernational Meltdown - Gugelethu & Club Ubuntu

Tete at his local club in Guguletu Township outside Cape Town
Cape Town was confusing. In this city of colonial ballustrades and modern developments the prevailing atmosphere was one of relaxed affluence. It seemed to gently tick over on an air of liberalism but in reality the black population was relegated to townships which could easily be missed by the casual visitor to the cape. We tasted the realities of the townships on our second day when we visited Gugelethu (our pride) for a late night sunday jam session. We rolled through the largely unlit streets of the gugs (pronounced guks) until we arrived at the entrance of a large compound. The gates were thrown open by the security and we drove in. On the wall a large sign declared Club Ubuntu. "It means humanity" explained Neville Sing, our driver. We were greeted by a young light skinned women wearing a turban that looked like it contained a stack of dreads and we filed into the club to the sound of Dana Bryant and Ronny Jordan's cut of 'The Jackal'. I laughed out loud. The new jazz thing has even found its way to Gugs!

"Its a bit different from the Green Dolphin," smirked Andrew Missingham in a reference to Cape Town's expensive, premier jazz venue which is housed on a waterfront development not unlike St Katherines Dock in London. The drummer was clearly at home as he skipped off to the bar.

It was far from crowded but scanning the venue you knew that on Friday and Saturday nights it would be rammed and jumping. Sunday was jazz night and something of an institution. It continued a tradition that is rooted in the township jazz societies and is the legacy of a jazz-crazy Cape Town of the late fifties and early sixties before apartheid stamped out the notorious area of district six. The erratic musical selection from the deejay booth spanned hard bop and soulful jazz and people, young and middle age, would slide onto the dancefloor to cut some steps. Airto had promised to participate in the jam and both Andrew and Byron were keen to let off but the bandstand was clearly the domain of the regulars who had an affinity to certain tunes, mostly ballads. Airto dropped in behind the drum kits but the musical scenario was too restricting. Moses Molelekwa laughed and agreed the place would have freaked had they heard the kind of spontaneous rhythmic explosions created in the studio earlier that day. However, it was amazing to witness a queue of trumpet players materialise onstage. Trevor Huddleston definitely started something when he sent a horn to that aspiring young jazz man Hugh Masekela.

Outernational Meltdown - Enter Amampondo

 
Mzwandile Qotoyi and Dizu 'Zungulu' Plaatji

The studio sessions earlier that day had been extraodinary. We'd arrived to find that Amampondo, the brilliant six member folkloric group named after the fable people of 'Pondoland, had already set up. Along with the four differently tuned wooden marimbas, there was an array of djembes and small percussion and grouped in one corner were the ancestral drums. Some were richly carved with faces while others were constructed from animal skins stretched taut with ropes over oil drums. The studio atmosphere crackled with anticipation; the chemistry between Airto and Amampondo was explosive. The djembes fired off volleys of rhythm and the Brazilian wailed as he spiced each improvisation with the sound of the caxixis or whatever was at hand. The tapes rolled and the individual pieces gradually took shape. Voices and sounds were over dubbed...suddenly the studio was filled with the noises of birds and the bleating of goats.

Amampondo spend much of their time teaching but are no strangers to touring internationally. Their last CD was the first time they had experimented with non-African instruments and they loved it. One afternoon just as they had finished playing a riveting, uptempo, multi-layered marimba groove underpinned by the pounding ancestral drums of Simpiwe Matole, Airto appeared in the studio. Over the microphone the group leader, the mesmerising Dizu Zungulu Plaatjies, declared, "Hey! Hey man, we've been missing you, man ! The spirit is not here without you. We've been missing you."

Outernational Meltdown - Neto in the studio with Byron Wallen

 

L : José Neto
R : Byron Wallen in the studio


Byrons' horn danced its own melodies while Jose Neto continued to conjure up the most subtle, atmospherics on guitar. With his headscarves, Hendrix and Marley T-shirts and wierd looking guitars. Neto looks like the archetypal rock guitarist but having been musical director on Harry Belafonte's (pre Paul Simon) South African project he was coming from deep inside the music.

 Outernational Meltdown - Bo Molelekwa

Moses Taiwa Molelekwa in classic Pharoah Saunders pose

During a break in the action, Moses Molelekwa magically produced a solo piano piece, 'Bo Molelekwa' that was later to appear on his debut LP, 'Finding One's Self' (BW053). Another pianist, Tete Mbambisa, a stalwart of the Cape Town old school dropped in to work with Sipho and what initially sounded like an archetypal South African jazz piece gradually mutated into a surprising variation on the tradition. A young unknown singer guitarist, Mxoli 'David' Mayekane, came together with Max to produce an alluring vocal number with delicately woven guitar melodies.

Meanwhile, the relaxation room was a hive of activity and the site of an ongoing pool hall battle between North London and Cape Town posse's. Studio conditions were like Jo'burg, far from perfect but problems were overcome and totally outweighed by the creative energies at work.

Outernational Meltdown - At The Baxter

That was the vibe they carried with them to the Baxter Theatre in the university complex on the last night in Cape Town. The large luxurious theatre was packed to capacity. There was a healthy balance of black and white faces. The stage was crowded with the equipment of the 17 musicians involved. As they trooped on stage they were a sight to behold. Amampondo were dressed traditionally and had expanded numerically to include three girl singers /dancers. Pops had his face painted. So did Byron who wore Zulu sandals and a flowing Mailian robe. The trumpeter carried his horns in one hand and rolled his chrome Chinese exercise balls around in the other.

 

The musical flexibility and relaxed freedom of each composition swept off the stage and over the audience. Musicians came and went and the overall set spanned solo to wild extended percussion and even acrobatics and tumbling.

It was Dizu who stepped up to the mic, and looking at the audience, proclaimed what was happening was the future in action and that here was the proof of that. "We have to mix !" he dedicated the final tune to president Nelson Mandela and as our thoughts drifted across that short expanse of ocean to Robben Island, just off the cape, the riddims surged through the theatre to lift people from their seats.

Outernational Meltdown Live Gig - London, Spring '95

The recordings were not a one off, lightning strikes mission, but part of an ongoing process. It sparked off a relationship between the younger players and as a result, last January, Andrew Missingham, sax manChris Bowden and bassist Ike Leo left London for Jo'burg to work with Moses Molelekwa and co. The result is a group, Barungwa, and an album called The Messengers (BW070). Also in the can and poised for release, isPops Mohamed 's 'ancestral healing' debut and plans are being made to record Madala Kunene. At the time of writing Robert Trunz and Airto were holed up in the sound design studio in California where they were engaged with the final mixes of those October recordings.

A phone conversation with the master percussionist revealed that he's back on a musical high, having spent three weeks honing the music from that trip: "Hey people had better be ready for this 'cause this stuff is raw, this is stand up music. This is not what people expect from South Africa, a whole other thing is happening, the energy at work here is something else believe me !" Having lived with a stack of thrilling but rough monitor mixes of the sessions I do believe him and can't wait for the first of several CDs which will be out in the summer. but also be aware that this is jut the beginning 'cause Airto Moreira is on a mission.

Sitting and watching the playbacks of the video shot in Cape Town he looked fit and relaxed and was imbued with a new sense of purpose: "I used to feel like this when I was in Brasil, when I was 18 or 19 and would feel this urge. I dont normally get excited any more I go onstage and play my best and people say, 'Yeah, that was great!' but I think maybe it was good but not great. Here I think everything has been great and I am the one trying to tell myself not to get too excited."

"The source of this music has no ending...it's much stronger, much more beautiful...and it's really important that the African musicians realise how strong and how beautiful it is and how great they are as musicians. I found myself crying already three times. I don't know why 'cause I have no reason to cry. Everything is great. But you know, its the feeling, it's too much man!".