Framed by Putumayo, the Rainbow Nation sounds unified. South Africa presents, not so much a country, as a massive group hug.
As a compilation, South Africa rides along on what you might call the Ladysmith Black Mambazo side of South African music. It's melodic and hummable. We hear the sweet roll-and-rise of kwela, the optimistic bounce of township jive, and the lyrics are uplifting and more religious than expected. Nibs Van Der Spuy wishes for hope and salvation. The Blk Sonshine duo, cutting to the chase, simply titles a song "Nkosi", which means "God" in Xhosa. The disc ends with the Soweto Gospel Choir. In compiling South Africa, producers have avoided the obvious names, Lucky Dube, Ladysmith, the Mahotella Queens, instead making more idiosyncratic choices like Zoro, Phinda, Bholoja. Miriam Makeba is represented not by "Pata Pata" or "The Click Song", but the earlier "Orlando", and Phinda's stint playing Rafiki in The Lion King is treated with singular pride in the publicity for this release. Framed by Putumayo, the Rainbow Nation sounds unified, not so much a country, more like a massive group hug.