BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Rejoice by Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela
Black History Month
During February’s Black History Month Kurated spotlights Black artists new and old, living or passed.CONTENTS
- INTRO: African Legends’ Rejoice
- PLAYLISTS: On YouTube and Spotify
- VIDEO: The Making of Rejoice featuring interviews with Tony Allen, producer Nick Gold and in-studio footage (5:26 mins)
- REVIEWS: From Pitchfork and Allmusic
AFRICAN LEGENDS’ REJOICE
A tight and driving one-off album
Seminal African musicians Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela agreed when they first met in the 70s they would make an album together. The project saw a long gestation. The two ultimately made good on the promise in 2010 under the care of Buena Vista Social Club producer Nick Gold. The resulting album, Rejoice, remained incomplete until Allen added the finishing touches for a March, 2020 release – two years after Masekela died and just two months before Allen himself passed.
It was worth the wait. The spare tunes – foregrounding Masekela’s horn and Allen’s dexterous rhythms – keep a moving pace of adroit interplay between the two. Says Pitchfork reviewer Matthew Ismael Ruiz: “Masekela’s flugelhorn is the most expressive voice on the record, bright and nimble, piercing in tone but gentle in force, bearing passport stamps from Johannesburg, London, and New York. Allen’s touch is light, but he strikes with the confidence of a player who knows he doesn’t need to attack the drum to be heard. His snare drives the grooves, occasionally sputtering into micro-rolls, and the full-kit fills occupy the negative space in Masekela’s melodies. They’re effortlessly in sync, belying their limited experience collaborating with each other.”
Allmusic’s Thom Jurek adds: “What transpires is not pure Afrobeat, the relentlessly danceable music from Lagos, but instead a “chamber” version of it, alongside swinging modern jazz, spidery, skeletal funk, and South African township groove combined. Masekela‘s singing, chanting, and wonderfully inventive trumpet lines blend effortlessly with Allen‘s drums digging into primal source rhythms and articulating them with a maestro’s flair at the center of the mix.”
South African Masekela and Nigerian Allen met through Fela Kuti who, together with Allen, developed the Afrobeat genre in the late 60s. At the same time South African Masekela was scoring hits in the United States including the chart-topping Grazing in the Grass. Both musicians are towering figures in their field and also known for their social activism in their respective countries.
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19 February 2022
PITCHFORK ONLINE MAGAZINE
Two years after the South African trumpeter’s death, this 2010 studio session with the legendary Nigerian drummer documents their unique fusion of Afrobeat and jazz
By Matthew Ismael Ruiz / Pitchfork
Tony Allen has lived many lives as a drummer in the decades since he first got behind a trap kit. His various collaborations and genre shifts are numerous and well documented, evidence of a lifetime of curiosity. But Allen will forever be known as the virtuosic drummer in Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 band—the man whose genre-defining rhythms drove the Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer’s renowned sound. He quite literally put the beat in Afrobeat.
The legacy of the late Hugh Masekela, who died in 2018, is no less majestic. As a trumpeter he made his mark on every band he played with. Exiled from South Africa during apartheid, he spent much of the 1960s in London and New York, scoring a No.1 hit with “Grazing in the Grass” and making a name for himself on the Manhattan jazz scene. By 1984 he was in West Africa, where, through Fela, his friend and contemporary, he met Allen.
Almost as soon as they connected, the two decided they should try to make music together, but it would be more than 25 years before they finally met up in London’s Livingston Studios. Those 2010 sessions flowed like a conversation, with Allen laying down a drum track, Tom Herbert or Mutale Chashi adding bass, and Masekela answering with melodies on his flugelhorn. The result is Rejoice, a collaborative record that Allen calls “a kind of South African-Nigerian swing-jazz stew,” a skeletal Afrobeat infused with the spirit of bebop, with lyrics in English, Yoruba, and Zulu reflective of the transatlantic exchange that has defined the African diaspora for centuries.
ALLMUSIC ONLINE MAGAZINE
by Thom Jurek / Allmusic.com
It should surprise no one who has ever followed the music of Nigerian drummer Tony Allen and/or South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela that this session exists. Though the great trumpeter passed away in 2018, his seven-decade-long career was filled with musical adventure across genres. For Allen, a co-creator of Afrobeat and a true progenitor of 21st century Afro-funk, innovation, experimentation, change, and disruption have been part of the game since he began playing.
What transpires is not pure Afrobeat, the relentlessly danceable music from Lagos, but instead a “chamber” version of it, alongside swinging modern jazz, spidery, skeletal funk, and South African township groove combined. Masekela‘s singing, chanting, and wonderfully inventive trumpet lines blend effortlessly with Allen‘s drums digging into primal source rhythms and articulating them with a maestro’s flair at the center of the mix. Opener “Robbers, Thugs and Muggers” is grounded in a sung chant directed at Allen‘s propulsive snare skitter and hi-hat washes. It’s answered by Masekela‘s bluesy horn, cutting across hard bop, jive, and folk, quoting from “Eleanor Rigby” for good measure.