Photo Credit: Steve Walsh

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Photo Credit: Steve Walsh

Lorraine Klaasen & Mongezi Ntaka – Ukubonga
Release Date: November 11, 2022
Label: Justin Time Records
Format: Album | CD/Digital
Duration: 50:44
Genre: Township Music
Origin: London, Ontario, Canada / Washington, D.C., USA

Although both artists, Lorraine Klaasen and Mongezi Ntaka call the North American continent their new home, their collaborative album „Ukubonga“ is a legit South African product. That is not only beause of its title which is Zulu for „Gratitude“ or the majority of the lyrics being sung in Zulu tongue. Nor is it because Klaasen and Ntaka are both of South African origin – Lorraine Klaasen is from Soweto, and Mongezi Ntaka from iGoli (Johannesburg). The fact that strongly connects this album with the musicians‘ origin is the deep and appreciative bow to Township Music that is done here.

Township Music is far more than a genre, it is rather a collection of traditional and modern music styles that have their origin in the Southern part of the African continent. It is the soundtrack of those who have hone through difficult times, such as drought, war, apartheid, and other crises. But Township Music is also the sound of those who have survived to tell that there is a life before death. And thus, it is a musical style full of hope, life and love.

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The Past, the Present, and the Future

Photo by Steve Walsh

„Ukubonga“ is a thirteen-track hommage to South African music in which Lorraine Klaasen and Mongezi Ntaka interpret some of the most memorable songs from their home country. The result is an overwhelming album with multidimensional impact. Music-wise alone, „Ukubonga“ is a bright and colourful bouquet of different sounds. Being a tribute to Township Music, „Ukubonga“ is as versatile as the musical style itself. And thus, genres such as Kwela, African Jazz, Mbira, Marabi, or Mbaqanga have made their way into the soundscape, and Western influence such as Americana can also be spotted in ‚Jikele Emaweni‘ for example.

This way, Klaasen and Ntaka praise all spheres of the timeline. They honour their cultural origin and thereby praise the past, but they do not forget to point at the dark times either. Bringing the traditional sounds and narratives to the present, the two artists create a vibrant hybrid that allows tradition and modernism likewise. It is a sober and confident perspective from which they look forward towards a future that has yet to be fought for, and thus political commentary and consciousness are part of „Ukubonga“, too.

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Photo by Steve Walsh

„Ukubonga“ is an album full of passion, heart and soul. On dynamic rhythms, powered by string and wind instruments that spread joy and motivation, Lorraine Klassen and Mongezi Ntaka sing, tell and dance, and let the African sunset come to the listeners‘ hearts. The title of the album could not have been chosen better – „Ukubonga“, gratitude, is an endless power that allows to see the beautiful aspects in life, be it as dark as it can be. And by that, this gorgeous collection of heart-warming tunes is an artistic appreciation to Township Music, an album that makes hearts and feet dance, and a reminder that peace and freedom are not self-evident. And last but not least, „Ukubonga“ is a great chance for Township Music to gain attraction on other continents.
9/10 Mangoes

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