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Various Artists: Smooth Africa II: Exploring the Soul

The second in a series of releases spotlighting South African musicians, Smooth Africa II: Exploring the Soul (Heads Up), presents a varied cross-section of South African music. Guitarist Jimmy Dludlu opens the album with the uplifting “Walk of Life,” while saxophonist Moses Khumalo’s “Hymn for Taiwa” is, by turns, gospel-inflected and jazzy, and singer-guitarist Oliver Mtukudzi offers the delicate ballad “Neria,” the title song from a popular African film. Ladysmith Black Mambazo apply their familiar harmonies to the rousing traditional song “Abezizwe: Uniting Nations Together.”

Smooth Africa II also features contributions from American artists: Pianist Joe McBride, a favorite in South Africa, performs two lively tracks, “Adderley Street” and “Yebo!” and his band includes two South African-born musicians. Steel-pans master Andy Narell contributes the haunting “Punch” and plays Fender Rhodes on guitarist Prince Kupi’s version of the traditional South African folk song “Botsotsi.” Narell also guests on Spyro Gyra’s “Cape Town Love,” whose African rhythms and buoyant performance mirror the joyous spirit pervading this album.

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