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SIPHO MABUSE (Buy CDs by this artist)
Sipho Mabuse (Virgin) 1987
Chant of the Marching (Earthworks/Virgin) 1989

British new wave pioneer Martin Rushent co-produced and remixed veteran Soweto singer/drummer Mabuse's first American album, recorded in both Johannesburg and London. Mabuse sings mostly in English on the strongly westernized songs, which blend African percussion styles and sounds with rock guitar, popping fretless bass, funk horns and other dance-ready attributes. "Shikisha" and "Ti Nyanga (African Doctor)" both feature backing by a female vocal group and are the most colorfully appealing tracks here; "Burn Out" (previously issued in the US as a 12-inch from a 1985 import LP), with no African character whatever, is just plain terrible.

The sunny Chant of the Marching, recorded in Brussels, is an uplifting mainstream album with fewer commercial concessions than its predecessor. (The American-soul styled "Celebration" sounds like a sincere embrace rather than a forced attempt to imitate.) Over a blend of spirited backup singers, neat hornwork (by Hugh Masekela and others) and percussion (used in more of a musical than rhythmic role), Mabuse confidently sings his forthright (bilingual) lyrics about the townships, Mandela and resistance in a handsome, almost unaccented voice. Miriam Makeba duets with Mabuse on one song.

[Ira Robbins]