Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela - Rejoice review: Two giants conjure fresh spontaneity

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Tony Allen and the late Hugh Masekela are giants of African music. The former is the drummer who, with Fela Kuti, created Nigerian Afrobeat. Trumpeter Masekela was an icon of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

The two met in the Seventies, when Masekela was in exile in West Africa, and planned to record together. Busy schedules meant this didn’t start until 2010. They went into a London studio with producer Nick Gold (Buena Vista Social Club, Orchestra Baobab) with nothing prepared in advance. The spontaneity of that session with just the two musicians plus bass is what makes it sound so fresh.

Allen is truly a multi-limbed rhythm section; there’s just a smattering of subsequent overdubs. Masekela died from cancer two years ago and it’s a shame we’ll never hear this live. The opener, Robbers, Thugs and Muggers, has Fela Kuti-like social criticism, with Masekela singing the lyrics in Zulu, while Lagos Never Going To Be The Same is an overt tribute to Fela.

The stand-out song is Agbada Bougou, a catchy South Africa-meets-Nigeria swing. One of the African releases of the year.