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Freshlyground have staked out unique territory on the South African music landscape.
A multi-racial pop band that filters traditional and local musical ideas through savvy, often quirky, international pop and rock production, the band is a true reflection of contemporary South Africa, a place of inherent contradictions. The band formed in Cape Town in 2002, with members from South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, and from the start followed their own path, avoiding the limitations of established genres. Their fourth release Radio Africa (2010) raised their international profile and led to US touring. Along the way, the band hooked up with producer Steve Berlin of Los Lobos fame. Berlin traveled to South Africa and went into the studio with them to create Take Me To The Dance. The album marks a decade of hard work for the band, and reflects an urge to try new formulas, lest they become, as lead vocalist Zolani Mahola put it, “dinosaurs.”
The result is impressive diversity, 14 tracks amounting to a collage of muscular club grooves and indie rock ballads with flavors of Zulu guitar pop, Xhosa, English, and Afrikaans vocals, and even a dash of Congolese guitar slipped into the midst of an otherwise middle-of-the-road pop song, “Not Too Late For Love.” Without a doubt, the group’s strongest asset is Mahola’s stylish and charismatic vocal. Hers is a voice made for pop. It can coo and growl, croon and belt, while always maintaining an effortless, liquid quality.
Review by Banning Eyre