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Album Review

For Afrika, South African expatriate bassist Johnny Dyani enlarged his group to a septet from the quartet formation he had used on prior Steeplechase recordings and, in the process, shifted gears slightly from the deeper, beautifully bitter songs that had been his forte (such as "House Arrest" on Mbizo) to a somewhat lighter fare, replete with catchy, skipping melodies and funky electric bass. Something of the township feel, so basic to his work, was also lost by replacing Dudu Pukwana with veteran saxman Charles Davis and by the odd inclusion of steel drums which supply a lilting quality. All of these elements make for a perhaps less satisfying effort that others by Dyani but still a fairly enjoyable one. His bass figure at the beginning and end of "Grandmother's Teaching" is almost worth the price of the album and a great example of the sort of thing that no one but Dyani could accomplish, and "Funk Dem Dudu" retains enough of that "African cry" to make one yearn for more. With its relatively short song times, Afrika might have been his stab at a bit of popular notice and is certainly a fun record, if not up to the heights of classics like his Witchdoctor's Son.


Born: 30 November 1945 in East London, South Africa

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

Johnny "Mbizo" Dyani was from a musical family and began playing the piano and singing in a traditional choir at an early age. At 13, he switched to bass, but would use both voice and piano later on. Chris McGregor hired him for the Blue Notes after hearing him play with pianist Tete Mbambiza; the group left the country in 1964, playing first at the Antibes Jazz Festival, then in Zurich, London, and Copenhagen. In 1966, Dyani toured Argentina with Steve Lacy's quartet, recording The Forest and the...
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Afrika, Johnny Dyani
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