Music brings people together. But few Afrobeat albums have brought together a cast like this. Along with legends and former Fela Kuti sidekicks like the late, great drummer Tony Allen and keyboardist Dele Sosimi, Keleketla! gathers an all-star cast that includes everyone from South African jazz artists to The Watts Prophets, New York devotees Antibalas, British Sons of Kemet sax colossus Shabaka Hutchings and more — all working their collective magic on a slate of tracks expertly and wisely underproduced by Coldcut’s Matt Black and Jonathan More. The result is an album that showcases umpteen different blends — vintage and contemporary, legends and upstarts, East and West, jazz and soul, Afrobeat and hip-hop, electronic and organic, you name it. It also happens to be a disc that adds up to far more than the sum of its parts — and is irresistibly, infectiously groovy to boot. If this isn’t the most significant African-music release of the year, I can’t wait to hear what is.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Keleketla! is an expansive collaborative project, reaching outward from Johannesburg to London, Lagos, L.A. and West Papua, Keleketla! started as a musical meeting ground between Ninja Tune cofounders Coldcut and a cadre of South African musicians (introduced by the charity In Place Of War), including the raw, South African-accented jazz styles of Sibusile Xaba, and rapper Yugen Blakrok (Black Panther OST). From those initial sessions, the record grew to encompass a wider web of musical luminaries, including Afrobeat architects, the late pioneer Tony Allen and Dele Sosimi, legendary L.A. spoken-word pioneers The Watts Prophets, Antibalas and West Papuan activist Benny Wenda. The final product is a future-facing assemblage of influences, drawing connections between different points in a jazz-tipped, soulfully-minded spectrum; it builds outwards, from the solid musical foundations of those first sessions, featuring the likes of Thabang Tabane, esteemed percussionist and son of the legendary Phillip Tabane. On the one hand, there are gqom beats, interlaced with activist chants and and Tony Allen’s live Afrobeat drums; on the other, there are warm, lyrical meditations, aided by horns and keys. The name Keleketla! means “response,” as in “call-and-response”, a title which speaks to the project’s aim: to build out a shared musical ground, traced across different recording sessions, continents apart. Keleketla! is about finding musical connections. Starting with the tight community around the Keleketla! Library, this project has grown out of those closely forged bonds that can develop around music. Recalling the records he was introduced to and friends made while in South Africa, More says, “There’s music lovers everywhere and that’s what we thrive with.” Keleketla! is about embracing that call-and-response tradition, and seeing where it takes you.”