SPAZA - SPAZA - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab


by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:2019-06-21

Those a bit more familiar with South African culture are probably aware of two meanings associated with the word Spaza - one is its use to designate thousands of informal neighbourhood stores around the country, located in converted garages, shacks or repurposed shipping containers. The other, also more general use is for spaza music, a form of urban South African hip-hop.

Now, Spaza is also a gallery in the Troyeville part of Johannesburg, and also, more importantly here, Spaza is a music collective which just came up with a self-titled album of some of the most interesting improvisational space/spiritual jazz to be released recently.

While improvisation in jazz is often connected with free jazz experimentation, Spaza the band, if we can call it that, go somewhere else. With no permanently set personnel, it tries to convey the spirit of musical experimentation on one hand and the spirit of the initial meaning the word spaza acquired - as the band points out themselves, spazas are “contested territories, and sites of often fatal bloodshed where financially disenfranchised South Africans routinely mete out their frustrations. However, spazas are also colourful, often styled and designed by each owner. They become the nerve centres of social activity in the communities and are often stocked with an array of iconic South African brands and products, many of which are referenced in the album's track names.”

If often such descriptions tend to be a bit too colourful, listening to this album you get the feeling this one is right on the money. Recorded live in one take on the premises of the aforementioned Spaza Gallery, the six musicians that made this recording cover a wide range of musical ground, from the rich jazz tradition South Africa is known for, to the rhythms and sounds of the street, all mixed with intermittent synthesizers and electronic effects.

In many ways, it is reminiscent of the more melodic moments of Sun Ra and their Japanese followers Sibusashirazu Orchestra. Many would mention Kamasi Washington here, and similarities are present. but bear in mind that this was recorded practically at the same time Washington released The Epic.

Here you get a perfect ebb and flow of improvised music, with excellent understanding among the participating musicians, with a constant melodic and rhythmic interaction, where the vocal conversation and electronic embellishments on “Tigerbalm nobuhiebakho (interlude)” and “Ice Squinchies/Waiting For You”, actually bring something really new and inventive.

An absolute must for all who like to cross their musical boundaries.

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