07 September 2005

Freshlyground South African Pop

FRESHLYGROUND: NOMVULA (Freeground/Sony BMG) - CD review
From South Africa comes the group Freshlyground; their new CD Nomvula blends African roots with irresistibly catchy pop melodies. And Zolani Mahola's swooping vocals (in both English and African languages) are reminiscent of an early Gwen Stefani - in a very good way. This is the kind of group that could achieve serious global success, because their African-rooted pop is so universal and appealing.

Musically Freshlyground ranges from slow pop ballads ("Nomvula" and "Buttercup") to Safrojazz-inspired dance tunes ("Zithande" and "Mowbray Kaap") to world lounge ("Manyana"). I'd swear that Phil Collins must have had a hand in the poignant, pleading "Father Please." And while not all of their lyrics are translated in the liner notes, the typical pop themes of love and loss are augmented by enigmatic phrases evoking global unity and general positive vibrations. Honestly, even reading the lyrics I don't know what half of them are about. But with such feel-good music, it doesn't matter a whit. On the slow ballad "Human Angels" Mahola sings what might be the Freshlyground them: "Forget about your destiny. Get off your feet and live!"

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