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Recorded in 1974, Matsuli Music Reissues “Batsumi”

Lost for decades, South African band Batsumi, self-titled album finally see’s the light of day.

Recorded in 1974 in Soweto, “Batsumi” is an intriguing, rousing reminder of the inventive styles that flourished in apartheid-era South Africa, but never came to the notice of the outside world. Batsumi were an Afro-jazz outfit led by a blind guitarist, Johnny Mothopeng, along with his keyboard-playing brother Lancelot and bassist Zulu Bidi. They worked in the sprawling Johannesburg township in the early 70s, and their debut album has been unobtainable for decades.

Remastered from the original tapes, and best played very loud, it’s a vibrant, energetic workout in which slinky, repeated riffs are matched against wailing, sometimes psychedelic effects, with saxophone and flute solos added. There are five lengthy tracks here, and they range from the opening Lishonile, in which hypnotic, repeated phrases and solos give way after nine minutes to equally furious chanting, and the cool Anishilabi, in which a classy keyboard workout and bass solo ease into a cool, loping riff. An obscure African recording, maybe, but this is still great dance music, making “Batsumi” a mesmerizing and well-crafted jazz gem ready to be played at any time of the day.

Label: Record and Tape Limited ‎– RTL 4041
Country: South Africa
Released: 1974
Genre: Jazz, Folk, World, & Country
Style: Cape Jazz

Double Bass, Design, Artwork – Zulu Bidi
Drums – Lekgabe Maleka
Drums, Flute, Jew’s Harp, Liner Notes – Thabang Masemola
Engineer – Chris van Schouwen*
Organ – Sello Mothopeng
Producer – Baba Matiwane
Tenor Saxophone – Themba Koyana
Vocals, Bongos – Buta Buta Zwane
Vocals, Guitar – Maswaswe Mothopeng