Photo courtesy FlipSwitch
Can you imagine not being able to listen to or play the kind of music you love? South Africa experienced such a plight before and during the Apartheid era, when a self-imposed boycott of jazz led to a diaspora of musicians from the segregated country. Now, Broadway star and gifted ensemble singer Nonhlanhla Kheswa is memorializing those trying times with a beautiful new release: Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz (Xippi Phonorecords). Named for Strike Vilakazi's rebellious 1955 composition, this live album glides, glistens and bops like few modern jazz collections do. Kheswa & Her Martians strut from throwback numbers (the breezy "Tshona") to rhythmic powerhouse performances ("Jikele Maweni"). The chanteuse's vocals are striking and heart-pounding as she summons the storytelling prowess she nurtured as a featured singer for The Lion King and as a member of Wyclef Jean's crew. Hers is a voice that can command the sun to rise and the moon to dance. Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz not only serves as an impressive (re)introduction to Kheswa's artistry, but it also is a testament to the rich history of the genre that South Africa has nurtured. Study up and prepare to be moved.