Bakithi Kumalo: San Bonan

On this side of the Atlantic, Kumalo is best known for his vocals and electric bass work on Paul Simon’s Graceland. Featuring the likes of Steve Khan, Mark Egan, Chieli Minucci and Don Alias, San Bonan fuses South African, Latin and jazz elements into a vibrant panorama.

With occasional assistance from Khan and keyboardist Mike Landy, Kumalo contributes the lion’s share of the compositions, which utilize instrumentation that ranges from a large Latin band to a duo with Alias. Minucci takes a few nice acoustic guitar solos and Morris Goldberg colors the textures with bamboo flute and penny whistle, but the album’s focal points include infectious vocal melodies (handled by Kumalo, his wife, Robbi, and others), kaleidoscopic rhythms, and killer percussion-driven grooves. It’s all held together by Kumalo’s articulate bass playing, which anchors the sometimes complex compositions and frequently pops with authority.