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

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more

2020-03-17
Cruise to the Edge and Seaprog 2020 Festivals Postponed – The worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus has started to produce casualties in the music world, and festivals are not immune. We've had word that both the Cruise to the Edge (originally slated for March 27 - April 1) and Seaprog (originally June 5-7) have been postponed to later dates, with those dates to be announced. » Read more

2020-03-06
McCoy Typer RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz, McCoy Tyner. His tenure with John Coltrane in the early 60s includes some of the most treasured recordings of the era, including My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. After leaving Coltrane's group, he had a long and successful solo career. He was 81. » Read more

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Beggar's Farm - Itullians – I have to admit that when I saw this one I thought, "Not another tribute band." But there was that list of participants on the front cover: Clive Bunker, Mick Abrahams, Bernardo Lanzetti, Jonathan...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues