Vusa Mkhaya - Vocalism
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Vusa Mkhaya
Arc Music (

Finally, a world music release that Paul Simon and Keith Richards can agree on. In truth, this is not a concern that keeps ethnomusicologists awake at night, but it does provide a brief, accurate commentary on the release. Vocalism is a world music release in several crucial ways. Recorded for UK-based ARC Music, known for the highest production and artistic standards, partly in Vienna and partly in Mkhaya's home, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, it's progress to our ears has literally been all over the map. Incorporating the broad musical acceptance of his own respected ears, he harmoniously grafts elements of yodelling and Hungarian folk music onto his own roots. On the Bulawayo recording passages, he is strongly abetted by old friends who stopped by the studio to say hello and stayed to add their voices and sensibilities to the project.

Perhaps most importantly, Vocalism is world music because the theme connecting all 15 cuts is love for some person, place or thing in the world. There is happy faith in an afterlife in "Ulele" and strong hint of vendors in any shopping district on the planet hawking their wares in "Brunnenmarkt," which commemorates Vienna's largest street market. The world is a place of good and bad; Vocalism acknowledges that by addressing some sadder topics, but one hears hope in human spirit and a kindly universal spirit emerging triumphant from these melancholies.

A world music release is, arguably, great in inverse proportion to the importance to listeners of speaking the vocalist's language. Typically, one loses quite a bit in translation when one is unable to translate. The more a recording relies on vocals, the truer this is. In keeping with that argument, Vocalism is a very great world music release indeed, for one rarely thinks of the language barrier or misses much of a song's message while listening to it. One need not be a hardcore world music fan to purchase and enjoy this release. However, one is much more likely to become a hardcore world music fan after doing so. - Arthur Shuey


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