Lorraine Klaasen and Mongezi Ntaka give thanks for the undying spirit of their fellow South Africans on their appealing new album Ukubonga (Gratitude) — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
The new collaborative recording from South African singer Klaasen and guitarist, composer, arranger, musical director and producer Ntaka is a collection of songs from South Africa Township songbooks, as written by some of South Africa’s most celebrated singers and composers. Lorraine and Mongezi show their gratitude to the dedicated artists who endured and survived apartheid’s brutal and humiliating experiences while pursuing musical careers to support their families.
At the heart of this album are messages of romantic courtship, social and political commentary, consciousness, cultural pride and elder wisdom. The inspiration for this album came through Lorraine and Mongezi’s desire to increase awareness of a musical culture as good as any other in the world. Sadly, almost all the artists whose songs are included on this project have passed on. But they have have left this incredible body of work to remind the children of African of the importance of gratitude.
“As an artist I never realized how important music is in my life and how my music has impacted my fans until the Coronavirus pandemic arrived,” Klaasen says. “During this period, I reflected on the direction I should take in my music career and suddenly an idea to collaborate with my dear friend Mongezi Ntaka came along. Over the past decade or so, I have been performing a duo live show of just an acoustic guitar and voice with Mongezi Ntaka and my record company suggested that we record that show in the studio in order to share that experience with more listeners.
“Mongezi suggested that we go into the South African songbook and select some of the most memorable songs in the Township music genre. Mongezi and I decided on Ukubonga (Gratitude) as the title of the album in appreciation of the work that all the artists who created the music genre we now call South African Township music. This album also includes works by some of the women I dearly respect and adore. My musical influences range from groups like the Mahotella Queens, Dark City Sisters to artists like Dorothy Masuka, Margaret M’cingana (Singana), my mom Thandi Klaasen and Miriam Makeba. On this album, I am using several Township vocal styles, including those by Busi Mhlongo, who is one of the greatest influences in my vocal style.”
In order to maintain the integrity of the music, Lorraine and Mongezi performed live in the studio and kept most of the imperfections in the performance. Every song on this album was recorded in one take, with vocal and acoustic guitar overdubs done immediately afterward. This was done to keep the tradition in which the original recordings were captured.