Commencing Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz with the instrumental Tshona was the perfect move. The song is so illuminatedly narrative, especially in Josh Evans' trumpet work, that it's almost like reading a hip novel. For a nice long 7 minutes, Tshona seduces the listener into a funky, jazzy, open range milieu, soloists declaiming one after another so well that, when it moves into Qula Kwedini, Nonhlanha Kheswa's vocals slot in seamlessly with the groovin' axework. In fact, to my mind, she reveals what Meredith Monk, Joan LaBarbara, and Yoko Ono may not have: that their intriguingly outlandish obtuse modes could well have been based in some of Africa's oft striking use of the human voice.
Kheswa has zero holdback, she commands the stage as firmly and naturally as any of her highly accomplished band, the melodious jewel in a crown of wrought gold, and this trait derives in her acting background. She'll soon be starring worldwide in Peter Brook's stage direction of The Suit, an adaptation of Cam Themba's famed short story about Sophiatown which will see 100 performances in 6 major American metropolises in 2014. I think, though, too, that, like Thembe and others who have impressed her politically, Kheswa has an immovably populist backbone of resistance to world capitalism and the depredations so well detailed in John Perkins' revelatory books. That, after all, is what the too-long history of violations of Africa has been, as Goldman-Sachs and compeers work diligently to impose another Great Depression, this time on the entirety of planet Earth. That, I think you will agree, is something to be concerned over.
Meadowlands is live, and Kheswa, who hails from Soweto, does not impose her anti-apartheid and other sentiments on the audience but neither does she let them entirely avoid the issues, bedding down in melodious, lively, out of the box songs provoking smiles and handclapping, not to mention hoots of appreciation. The centerpiece of the CD is the 16-minute Meadowlands suite, drawn from the estimable Miriam Makeba and others, and Kheswa presents multiple roles like any good actress, beguiling the hall in protean grace, slyly pulling them all the more firmly into a brain-active status. On the other hand, just as pure music, this disc has innumerable merits, and if you dig the African vibe—doesn't matter who: Fela Kuti, Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza, doesn't matter at all—and well hybridized jazz sounds, including the wildy chaotic Bilad As-Sudan, this glowing slice needs to be in your collection.