Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa (1971) (with The Crusaders)

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Hugh Masekela and the Union of South Africa
Originally released on CHISA records (Chisa 808)
This reissued, Motown / MoJazz (31453-0329-2) from 1994

01 – Goin’ Back to New Orleans (5:07) (Hugh Masekela)
02 – Ade (3:47) (Caiphus Semenya)
03 – To Get Ourselves Together (2:52) (Hugh Masekela)
04 – Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive (3:57) (Eric Songxaka-Jonas Gwangwa)
05 – Mamani (5:23) (Caiphus Semenya)
06 – Shebeen (4:02) (Jonas Gwangwa)
07 – Dyambo (3:49) (Caiphus Semenya)
08 – Caution! (5:41) (Caiphus Semenya)
09 – Hush (Somebody’s Calling My Name) (3:34) (Joe W. May)

In my morning ritual of working on this blog over some coffee, I decided that the way I was going to show my support for Brazil in today’s World Cup match would be by posting this album of anti-Dutch liberation music from Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa. Okay okay, calling it revolutionary and anti-colonial might be a bit much, but it’s a great record and should make for a cathartic listening experience no matter how things turn out today.

It was hard to decide what songs to include on this little sample below, since they really are all excellent. I decided on one vocal number and one instrumental, because in a way the album almost sounds like it can’t decide which way to go in that respect. The instrumental numbers sound a whole hell of a lot like the early Crusaders material (unsurprisingly.. see below), while the vocal numbers are something else. Although described by some as an “Afro-rock” album, these tracks have more in common with the pop sensibilities that made Masekela an international superstar with the song “Grazin’ in the Grass.” Tightly arranged harmonies that draw as much or more from United States gospel, soul, and blues musics than from ‘traditional’ vocal styles of the Motherland. And there is absolutely no problem with that – the result is a beautiful album. Except for the tunes “Ade”, with its boogie funk and fuzzy guitar, and “Dyambo” (another funky number… can anyone out there tell me if the lyrics to this are in Swazi or Zulu, or any of the other ELEVEN “official languages” of South Africa???), there is little to be called “rock” here, unless its to be understood in the sense that The Crusaders are sometimes called “jazz rock”.

So, as I was saying… Two songs here to give you a taste – the vocal number “To Get Ourselves Together,” souljazz with a slow-funk backbeat (hmm, well the ‘turnaround’ between verses here is kind of rock-like in a delicious way); followed by “Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive” which is kind of a High Life song as played by The Crusaders. If this doesn’t whet your appetite for more, then I simply don’t know what to say and you probably close this page on your browser and go back to listening to whatever floats your musical boat.

Although not credited anywhere on this Chisa / Motown reissue, this record (recorded entirely in Hollywood, California) relies heavily on members of the mighty CRUSADERS as the backing band, with the album jacket listing only the horn players Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa (trombone) and Caiphus Semenya (alto sax) as comprising “The Union.” I am not sure if The Crusaders members on these sessions (Joe Sample, Wayne Henderson, Wilton Fedder, Stix Hooper) were listed on the original Chisa vinyl, but if not I am sure there must have been good reasons – they were willing collaborators and had recorded for the label (even changing their name at Masekela’s suggestion).

Recording in a cluster of sessions spanning April 5 – 9, 1971, exactly who played on what is rather confusing. Thanks to Doug Payne’s excellent website, we know the following details (note that a bunch of these tracks did not appear on the original album presented here):

HUGH MASEKELA & THE UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA
Hugh Masekela
Hollywood, California: April 5, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).
overdubbed in Hollywood, California: April 9, 1971
Hugh Masekela; King Errison (perc).

a. Ade (Caiphus Semenya) – 3:47
b. Dyambo (Weary Day Is Over) (Caiphus Semenya) – 3:49

Hollywood, California: April 5, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

c. Ku Ku Di

Hollywood, California: April 7, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

d. Mabasa
e. This Stuff Is Killing Me
f. To Get Ourselves Together (Hugh Masekela) – 2:52

Hollywood, California: April 9, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl); King Errison (perc).

g. Mamani (Caiphus Semenya) – 5:23

Hollywood, California: April 7, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

h. Goin Back To New Orleans (Hugh Masekela) – 5:07
i. Railroad
j. Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive (Eric Songxaka/Jonas Gwangwa) – 2:52
k. Caution! (Caiphus Semenya) – 5:41
l. Shebeen (Jonas Gwangwa) – 4:02

same or similar.

m. Hush (Somebody’s Calling My Name) (Joe W. May) – 3:34

Note: Dudu Pukwana, a member of Masekela’s Union Of South Africa around this time, later authored and performed a song titled “Baloyi” on his 1973 recording IN THE TOWNSHIPS (Caroline 1504, Earthworks 90884-2 [CD]) that bears notable similarities to “Shebeen” above.

Issues: a, b, f, g, h, j, k, l & m on Chisa CS 808 (issued May 1971), Rare Earth (E) SRE-3002, MoJazz 31453-0330-2 [CD] (issued August 1994).
Singles: b (2:35 edit) & l (4:00 edit) also on Chisa C 8014F [45]. l also on Tamla Motown (SA) TMS 373 [45].
Samplers: a also on Hip-O B0007383-02 [CD] titled THE BEST OF HUGH MASEKELA – 20th CENTURY MASTERS – THE MILLENNIUM COLLECTION. a, f, g, h, j & m also on Spectrum (E) 9810227 [CD] titled THE COLLECTION. b also on Tapecar (Br) LPS X0-4 titled SOM ECODINAMIC PART TWO, Motor (Ger) 525 444-1, Motor (Ger) 525 444-2 [CD] titled MOJO CLUB PRESENTS DANCELOOR JAZZ VOLUME 4: LIGHT MY FIRE and Strut (E) STRUTLP007, Strut (E) STRUTCD007 [CD] titled CLUB AFRICA 2. b, g & j also on Verve (Ger) 06007 5328250 [CD] titled HUGH! THE BEST OF HUGH MASEKELA – PRESENTED BY TILL BRÖNNER. b, b (stereo promo version) & l also on Hip-o Select B001157902 [CD] titled THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES VOLUME 11A: 1971. l also on ? (SA) ? [CD] titled MESH MAPETLA PRESENTS JAZZ IN SOUTH AFRICA VOLUME 1.
Producer: Stewart Levine
Engineer: Lewis Peters

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