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

2017-11-16
Celebrate 10 Years of Fruits de Mer – As a special celebration for a decade of cool vinyl releases, our friends at Fruits de Mer records have prepared a limited edition reissue of an album by the first band ever to appear on the label: Schizo Fun Addict. The band is known for unusual release strag » Read more

2017-11-02
Mega Dodo Presents New Charity Album – Our friends at Mega Dodo have put together a lovely compilation of their artists performing new arrangements of nursery rhymes, and all the profits from sales of the album will benefit Save the Children. It features a number of artists we've covered. » Read more

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Lubimov, Trostianki, Rybakov - Misterioso – As part of ECM's continuing new music series, enter a semi-classical trio who embrace the quietudes of modern compositional expression with a keen sense of space and beauty by focusing on modern...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues