The past and the present meet on McCoy Mrubata's "Phosa Ngasemva"
McCoy MrubataThe latest offering from Cape Town-born saxophonist McCoy Mrubata, Phosa Ngasemva, represents his past influences and the inspiration that newer, urban culture offers. It also takes from his Xhosa culture. The one thing Phosa Ngasemva (from the indie label Sheer Sound) is certain to be is a hit among the fans.

The recording is dedicated to the memories of a host of South African musicians who died not long before its recording. Among them are Zimbabwean drummer and percussionist Jethro Shasha, trumpeter Dennis Mpale, Basil Coetsee, and features tributes to Fela Kuti, Mankunku Ngozi and Shasha.

The recording kicks off with Lost Ship, a dedication to the people of Zanzibar. With the exception of Abrahamse's samba laced, hypnotic rhythms, Prince Lengoase's fluegel horn solo is the only memorable aspect of Lost Ship. It is one of two tracks which Mrubata penned with Abrahamse. The other is Fula, and also includes a Tony Fox credit.

Mrubata has intuitively used Abrahamse's light hand on the fretless as the thread to bind Hikiki.

The audience favourite must surely be Abukho, with it's foot-stomping changes. Featured are vocalist Ringo Mandlingozi among a host of vocalists, and showcase the brass section he had lined up - baritone saxophonist Vuyisile Sabhongo, trombonist Jabu Magubane, trumpeter Prince Lengoase.

Mrubata's blowing on Hikiki brings warm memories of Pharoah Sanders' music, but retains the urban rhythms that have been associated with Xhosa culture of urban South Africa. Erini is typical township jive, with its undertones of the contemporary kwaito culture. Hear Lawrence Matshiza's solo and you'll know why he is one the country's underated talents. A wise choice for Mrubata as Matshiza is one of the few younger South Africa guitarists who brings to life the township sound of the generation past. The brass section shines again. And again on Phosa Ngasemva.

Tracks like Erini and Phosa Ngasemva show that Mrubata's influences lies in the giants of South African jazz. Mrubata's tenor play on Phosa has the maturity of Mankunku Ngozi and the jive and verve of Mike Ratau Makhalemele. The wonderful Lifikile Ixesha showcases another young voice, Remember Mbongwa. What a wonderful tribute to Nigerian icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti is the composition, Fula.

Where Mrubata's does not rely on Abrahramse's hypnotic fretless he turns to Trevor Don-Jeany (as in Hikiki)

While Phosa Ngasemva could win awards for cover design, the one downside is that it is not easily labelled.

Reviewed by Tebogo Alexander

McCoy Mrubata
Phosa Ngasemva
(Sheer Sound 1999)


01: Lost Ship (Mrubata/A Abrahamse)
02: Abukho (Mrubata)
03: Hikiki (Mrubata)
04: Strandloper (Hanmer)
05: Erini (Mrubata)
06: Lifikile Ixesha (Mrubata/A Abrahamse)
07: Phosa Ngasemva (Mrubata)
08: Fula (Mrubata/A Abrahamse/T Fox)
09: Sacred Drum (Mrubata)
10: Abukho (Instrumental) (Mrubata).


McCoy Mrubata (alto, soprano, tenor), Andre Abrahamse (fretless bass), Trevor Don-Jeany (bass), Paul Hanmer (piano, keyboards), Frank Paco (drums), Barry van Zyl (drums), Thapelo Kgomo (organ), Lawrence Matshiza (guitars), Louis Mhlanga (guitar), Basi Mahlasela (percussions), Romeo Avelino (percussions), Vuyisile Sabongo (baritone), Prince Lengoase (trumpet, flugel horn), Jabu Magubane (trombone).

Phosa Ngasemva was recorded at the Digital Cupboard in Johannesburg, and is Mrubata's third recording.

McCoy Mrubata Discography