You know that jazz never goes away- it ebbs and flows in profile and popularity. But over the last five years or so jazz music has reached out, edged its way over musical borders and re-energised around unlikely geographies in south London, Chicago and Johannesburg. The label Mushroom Hour Half Hour has been a pillar of the scene in South Africa’s mega-city from its beginning as a pirate radio show with a mission to champion the avant-garde, experimental and electronic, bands like the improvisational collective Spaza.
Named after DIY shops that run out of containers and garages in the townships, Spaza first turned heads with their self-titled debut album released in 2019. Here was a band taking the same anarchic approach of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, injecting their own rhythms and harmonies to make political jazz with the sonic daring of Sun Ra.
Now comes news of their second LP, ‘Uprize’ (for release on October 16th via Mushroom Hour Half Hour), the soundtrack to a documentary film ‘Uprising’ which traces events around the 1976 Soweto uprising. This highly charged record revolves once more around the beats of bassist Ariel Zamonsky and percussionist Gontse Makhene with new contributors Malcolm Jiyane (piano/vocals) and Nonku Phiri (FX/vocals) bringing a tighter focus to the sound.
The mournful vocal jazz spiritual ‘Sizwile’ announced ‘Uprize’ last month and now comes a second single ‘Xolile Mosi’ a homage to the first person killed by police in the Soweto uprisings. A powerful stripped back ballad with Phiri’s swirling vocals echoing around reverential piano, it haunts and captivates right up to the final silence. You are left in no doubt that this is important music and with ‘Uprize’, Spaza can more than carry their responsibility as messengers.