Spaza - Uprize! OST LP

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Recorded in Yeoville, Johannesburg, during a three-day improvised scoring workshop in 2016, the recording is almost the underside of the film, which strikes a defiant pose both in the selection of speakers and in the tone of much of the archival footage.

The June 16 protests stretched over several weeks in a countrywide blaze that turned out to be a sustained show of solidarity among students and an unbridled display of brutality by the state. The recording process mirrors that protraction, working out a new language with which to commemorate the death, darkness and defiance of those days.

The sessions for the second SPAZA release -- which comes off the back of 2019’s critically acclaimed eponymous debut -- featured bassist Ariel Zamonsky, percussionist Gontse Makhene, pianist, trombone player and singer Malcolm Jiyane, as well as vocalist Nonku Phiri. Besides Zamonsky and Makhene, who return to their stations at the rhythm section, Phiri and Jiyane are new inductees into the open-ended SPAZA philosophy. As in the initial release, the idea of SPAZA is to jam around a concept rather than to coalesce into a fully-fledged band. For this outing, Jiyane, a singular -- and solitary -- talent and leader of the Malcolm Jiyane Tree-o, brings an intuitive compositional maturity that threads the improvised sessions together. Phiri brings a vulnerability that turns out to be her superpower, confidently reshaping her voice to each emotional turn as suggested by the footage.

The adventure of scoring, even more so, scoring a film that is still being put together -- meaning only snatches of footage and audio were available to the musicians via a projection on the wall of the living room in which they were recording, to which they would respond with improvised performances -- had a direct bearing on the outcome of the recording. Adding further contours was the clear preconception of what the music ought to conjure. By playing vinyl in between sessions, musical directors Nhlanhla Mngadi and Andrew Curnow decidedly steered the session towards the intensely improvisational and avant-gardist aesthetic of groups such as the Arts Ensemble of Chicago. If Zamonksy’s bass seems to be providing more than mere fundaments and Makhene’s percussion a little more prosaic, put it down to the references but also an intent to represent the stories of those who lost their lives during ’76’s tumult.
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