Bokani Dyer – Radio Sechaba
(Brownswood Recordings. Album review by Adam Sieff)
It’s no secret that South African jazz is going through an exciting and creative period, and one of the artists at the forefront of the scene is 37 year old pianist and producer Bokani Dyer. This is his sixth album and also his first for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings which had previously included his Ke Nako on their 2021 South African jazzcompilation Indaba Is, curated by Thandi Ntuli and Siyabonga Mthembu (REVIEWED).
On Radio Sechaba Dyer shows his skill incorporating South African and American influences into his strong songwriting through imaginative arrangements covering an array of positive themes, chiefly nation-building and unity, optimism and faith in oneself. It’s a great sounding record, recorded by Dyer with his father, the saxophonist Steve Dyer (profile by Gwen Ansell), and engineer Tashepo Mothwa at their Dyertribe Studio near Johannesburg and mixed by Keith Farquharson.
The opening and closing moments are pure magic. Dyer’s layered harmonies on the introductory Be Where You Are, accompanied only by Alder du Toit’s guitar are almost David Crosby-esque, while the closing Medu is a gorgeous instrumental performed by a quartet of trumpeter Sthembiso Bhengu, saxophonists Linda Sikhakhane and Steve Dyer and double bassist Amaeshi Ikechi.
Dyer addresses the leaders for betraying their people on the excellent Mogaetsho, first released as a single three years ago. The blend of his various keyboards (including a great sounding electric piano) with the trumpet of Sthembiso Bhengu works really well over a rhythm section of Shane Cooper on guitar, bassist Tendai Shoko and drummer Tinotenda Dambaneunga. It’s a storming performance.
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The previously mentioned Ke Nako (‘lets build the nation, it’s time’) is revisited featuring guest vocalist Tomeletso Sereetsi (Sereetsi and the Natives) from Botswana, the country of Dyer’s birth where his father was living in exile. It’s sung in Setswana, one of the three languages on the record along with Sesotho and English and features more strong harmonies, a fine electric piano solo and a great guitar groove from Keenan Ahrends.
Other guests include the American rapper Damani Nkosi who delivers a powerful State Of The Nation over a churning soundtrack, and the singer and pianist Yonela Mnana who gives a moving performance on Ho Tla Loka (‘it will be ok’). Also, the double bassist Amaeshi Ikechi features prominently on the all too short interlude track Spirit People.
Two advance singles, Resonance Of Truth with it’s West African groove and plea to ‘follow the truth’ and the lively Move On with advice to ‘just breathe and let go’ lead directly to the album’s summit, the gentle You Are Home, probably Dyer’s finest vocal performance on the album with its ‘know your truth…it will lead you home’ theme. This is an album of optimistic, vibrant and confident music that’s full of heart.
Radio Sechaba is released on 12 May 2022