Kheswa and Her Martians just recently released their debut album Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz. The songs on the album are a mixture of studio recordings and live performances that reflect the universal nature of music and the global beauty of jazz in particular. Using horns, pianos, and drums that sing to the audience in their own sublime voice just as she does, lead singer Nonhlanhla Kheswa takes us on a musical journey that at times lends itself to a Latin sound while at other times exemplifying a more traditional jazz or bebop tone that at all times is accentuated by South African influence.
The album begins with the smooth, laid back instrumental “Tshona” and ends with the high energy, freewheeling instrumental “Bilad As-Sudan”. Sandwiched in between the two is a mosaic of songs ranging from the ballad-like “Ntyilo Ntyilo” and “Malaika” to the Latin-infused “Jikali Maweni.” Smack dab in the middle of this musical collage is “Nonhlanla’s Kofifi Medley,” which incorporates a number of sounds and rhythms into one song and includes a moment when Kheswa stops singing to briefly speak to her audience the history of the Meadowlands in South Africa and its effect on the South African jazz movement.
Paying homage to Strike Vilakazi’s 1956 ironic protest song “Meadowlands”, Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz reminds us of how far South African jazz has come and shows us its boundless future.