HARRY BELAFONTE – Paradise in Gazankulu (1988)

EMI, 46971
Producer: Hilton Rosenthal
Engineers: David Belafonte, Charlie Paakkari, Bobby Summerfield.
Recorded at Powerhouse Studios, Johannesburg (also Capitol Studios, LA, Evergreen Studios and MRC Studios, NY)

Since introducing the world to Zenzile Miriam Makeba on the Grammy-winning An Evening with Belafonte and Makeba in 1965, “the King of Calypse” had been an outspoken critic of apartheid, and as such a persona non grata in SA. In 1988 he recorded his first new album in fifteen years, a showcase of South African music and politics entitled Paradise in Gazankulu. Unable to enter the country, however, Belafonte had to add his vocals in American studios after the music was first recorded at Powerhouse Studios in Joburg.

Compared to Paul Simon's Graceland (1986), Belafonte drew from an equally, if not more, impressive line-up of local talent, including members of the legendary Makgonatsohle Band like Marks Mankwane (guitar) and West Nkosi (pennywhistle). Pennywhistler turned saxman Lemmy "Special" Mabaso, also came on board, along with members of the mighty Soul Brothers, singers Marilyn and Tu Nokwe, and Tsonga guitarist Obed Ngobeni, whose hit song “Kuhluvukile Ka Zete” supposedly first inspired the album (the same “Kazet” usually credited to the Mahotella Queens and rehashed by Descloux). Bakithi and Vusi Khumalo returned from Graceland, while younger talent included Brenda Fassie, her ex-husband and keyboardist Dumisani Ngubeni, and Hotline guitarist Alistair Coakely,

American songwriter Jake Holmes shared the credit with various local contributors. Though neither as trendy as McLaren and Descloux’s projects, nor as successful as Graceland, Paradise addressed the political climate of the time with defiance, pride and anger, effectively blending local and western sounds. Standout tracks include “Amandla”, “Sisi wami” and “Monday to Monday,” an upbeat duet between Belafonte and MaBrr.