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[Off The Record]
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The Mahotella Queens

Still girlish, giddy, and great in their late 50s, South Africa’s most famous vocal trio undergo something of a rebirth on this release. Their leading man — the legendary groaner, Mahlathini — died in 1999, along with the group’s original lead-guitarist, Marks Mankwane. The Queens thought of throwing in the towel, but instead they gathered a new band of young musicians playing in the cranking old mbaqanga style that the original group pioneered back in the 1960s.

Three a cappella pieces spotlight the Queens’ unmistakable vocal sound — gospel gutsy and full of heart. But best of all is hearing them launch into full-tilt mbaqanga boogie on the opener, " Kumnyama Endlini, " and the hard-driving " Awungibhaleli Ngani, " which plays out a misunderstanding between lovers. " Safari Yangu, " with its endearing English language refrain of " Don’t worry, I’ll be back " is another winner, graced with a warm Hugh Masekela–esque flügelhorn solo. " Mab’Amamtsentse " verges on country or Cajun music, with Malagasy accordion player Regis Gizavo adding flavor to its lively beat. The album closes with a reverential memorial to the Queens’ fallen bandmates, but the real message here is that this act still has a future.

(The Mahotella Queens perform with Rokia Traore at the Paradise this Tuesday, August 7. Call 617-876-4275.)


Issue Date: August 2 - 9, 2001

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