Fiery, fierce, fearless, The Brother Moves On come correct with seven spellbinding variations on a groove. This is South African jazz ramped up and raving, throwing it down, taking no prisoners. Opener, You think You Know Me, roars out of the blocks: a Covid blues, taking pot shots at societies scrabbling around in panic mode. ‘Conspiracy theorists…vegan fascists…electronic reparation…. god never saves Africa…. you think you fucking know me – that’s the problem.’ No polite supper-club business here. This is musicians seeking and speaking truth to power – the unknowability of us all encapsulated in five minutes of future jazz business.
For Mo follows, and my bet is you won’t hear anything more beautiful this year. A spoken word introduction riffs on the mystical healing qualities of music, and musicians – ‘this world may end…but people will still be people’ – and then it drops into miraculously mellifluous guitar and we’re away, surfing the farthest shores of souljazz. The horns come in and birdsong is heard, before the guitar finds itself disclocated and relocated to somewhere far, far away: a never-never land of faith and redemption. The blues turned in on itself: freedom now, freedom now, freedom now.
The whole album is total fire. Wa Madoda drops township vibes, dripping in historical references, updating the traditions, dragging the music through the gate marked ‘revolutionary tactics’. This is uplifting, spiritual, music to make the hard road just a little less difficult to travel. Guitars chime, voices combine, a flute comes in and dances into your synapses. These are just brilliantly put together works of art.
Fair to say then that this album is something just a little bit special, local heroes taking the jazz out of Joburg and spreading it far and wide. On Together it’s a joyful, joyous, jumping jack flash – ‘everybody knows we’re together, together…’ – and you’re smiling, you’re dancing, you’re transported, forgetting the leaden European skies of November. I’ts time to get down with it, it’s time to move, the power of unity hymned and hollered: no one can stop us now.
Tolika Mtoliki is a master-blaster masterclass in modern day jazz – stuffed full of melody, soul, resistance, and rebirth. It is all truly here, alive and kicking and waiting to be discovered. Difficult to praise it enough. File it next to the recent On Our Own Clock compilation and you’re deep in the good stuff. Wonderful.
Tolika Mtoliki by The Brother Moves On is out now on Matsuli Music.