Exposé Online banner

Assagai — Zimbabwe
(Keyhole KHCD9012, 1971/2014, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-04-11

Zimbabwe Cover art

In the early 70s with the international success of Osibisa, there was plenty of record company interest in signing other expat African bands, and Assagai was the beneficiary of Vertigo’s interest, but by Zimbabwe, the second of their two releases, the band had switched to the Philips label. The members of the band were originally mostly from South Africa, and three of the members – drummer Louis Moholo, trumpeter / flautist Mongezi Feza, and alto saxophonist / pianist Dudu Pukwana had previously played with Chris McGregor in the Blue Notes in the 60s, and would also be members of McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath from 1970 onwards, which gave Assagai a decidedly jazzy flavor. Following some personnel changes between the two albums (including the departure of guitarist and primary composer Fred Coker), the remaining members were percussionist Smiley De Jonnes, Fred Fredericks on tenor and baritone sax, Bizo Mngqikana on tenor sax, and Martha Mdenge on vocals. Also, the three members of Jade Warrior (Jon Field, Glyn Havard and Tony Duhig) were enlisted as a backing band on both of Assagai’s albums, and each member contributed one composition each to this effort. One track is credited to Pukwana, and the remaining four are credited to Mdenge. Right out of the gate, they launch into a jammin’ but jazzy version of Jade Warrior’s “Barazinbar” with the full sax and brass section leading the way, flanked by walls of conga drums. From there the album bounces back and forth between more African sounding vocal pieces by Mdenge and fiery jazz-rock tunes, the latter including Pukwana’s “Dalani” and “Kinzambi” by guitarist Tony Duhig. “La La” is a gentle pastoral vocal piece with only flute and guitar backing that evokes stillness and beauty. The ethnic flavors presented throughout this album are powerful and the balance between rock, jazz variations, and African elements work nicely to keep things interesting all the way through. A solid recommendation.


Filed under: Reissues, 2014 releases, 1971 recordings

Related artist(s): Jade Warrior, Assagai

Latest news

2019-01-31
Keyboardist Ingo Bischof R.I.P. – Keyboard player Ingo Bischof, best known as the longtime keyboard player of German band Kraan, passed away on January 29th, 2019. Bischof was born January 2, 1951 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and joined Kraan in 1975. » Read more

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO - Interstellar Guru and Zero – I find it extremely challenging to keep up with this prolific band with their myriad lineups and bazillions of releases. This time around, the band is Tsuyama Atsushi (monster bass, tortoiseshell...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues