Pops Mohamed - Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow


 In the past 2 years I have occasionally reviewed albums of Sheer Sound, a label specialized in music from Southern Africa. The typical Sheer sound is jazz mixed with traditional South African music. Pops Mohamed was born in South Africa. He raised in the small town Benoni nearby Johannesburg and listened to the music of Kippie Moeketsi and Abdullah Ibrahim. He then teamed up with Abdullah Ibrahim's saxophonist, Bazil 'Mannenberg' Coetzee and Sakhile's bassist, Sipho Gumede, landing a record contract which resulted in several albums. His specialties are traditional instruments as the Kora (a harp from West Africa), the Mbira (a thumb piano from Zimbabwe), the Didgeridoo (native to the Aboriginal people of Australia) and the Birimbau and the African Mouth Bow - developed by the South American Indians and the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert respectively.

His album "Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow" is not only a best-of-album but also a mirror of his current work. Following the title the album is divided in these 3 parts. All songs were recorded and mixed June 2002.

"Yesterday" is a flash back to his first releases. His Kalamazoo and Sophiatown albums were nominated for "Best Jazz Album" in South Africa's OKTV Awards. "On Kalamazoo I first heard traditional instruments (Mbira and Makweyani) played along with saxophones and piano in "Shebeens". This revisit to Kalamazoo is about remembering and celebrating the people who lived there and who have inspired me to what I'm doing now  -trying to recreate now what I have heard at the time." The midtempo piece is arranged in the traditional South African way. A big brass section, saxophones, a quick rhythm guitar are the main instruments.

Mother And Child is dedicated to the love between mother and child, a lifetime bond. Moses Khumalo is playing sax, Mokone Senkhane trombone as lead instruments, Pops Mohamed keyboard and organ. Moses and Mokone are improvising around the main theme.

Gauteng Vibes is a dedication to the brothers and sisters who have contributed to the rich musical heritage of Gauteng and welcomes back those who lived in exile for many, many years. Gauteng is a cosmopolitan, multicultural mix of people from all walks of life, from all four corners of the world. It's a part of South Africa.

Lament is about the way of the city. Pops Mohamed is playing besides Rhodes electric piano the Kora ( SA traditional harp), digeridoo and bird whistle and gives this tune its atmospheric touch. Moses Khumalo is blowing many licks on sax followed by Mokone Senkhane's trombone. They demonstrate that jazz can paint pictures of imagination.

Movement In The City - Part I is about signs of hope that we see in the city. The tune is more pop and melody-oriented.

In the "Today" section the album starts with The Journey - Part 1 (Mayibuye). "You will never know where you are going unless you know where you are coming from". The vocal intro introduced a rhythmic traditional song which let you dance. The Journey - Part 2 (The Groove). This tune is also a demonstration of traditional instruments as Mbira, Khoisan Mouthbow, Didgeridoo, Vocal Chant, Rain Stick and more.

"Spirit is what we believe in and what we sees as our guiding light - no matter what we call it. It is always there as our guide and we have to believe in it." Very impressing is Pops' harp play. One of the reason Pops Mohamed was invited by Andreas Vollenweider touring Switzerland with Andreas Vollenweider's band featuring Max Lasser and Busi Mhlongo.

The Journey Continues is an exposure of the African tuned Karimba. Moses Khumalo plays the soprano sax.

Arosa is a town in the Swiss Alps, where Pops wrote this song. It was deeply inspired and is dedicated to his friend Andreas Vollenweider. It is one of the few pieces on which Pop uses drum programming. The "Uh-Ehs" are reminding me at Deep Forest's "Sweet Lullaby".

Movement In The City - Part I. Pops comments to this tune: "We shouldn't be negative about our country - we should be positive because we are special." And indeed this music is unique, but also a typical "Sheer Sound".

Finally we reached "Tomorrow". We listen to I'm going back. This tune was previously released as "Cup o' Jo'burg". Pop comments: "Even though I'm a 21st century person, I'm still looking back. I back up my computer every day and , in the same way, I back up my culture and roots. Isn't it ironic that we are throwing away the very culture that our black brothers and sisters abroad are trying to embrace? What is wrong with this picture?"

Besides these deep thoughts remains an album with vivid music and awesome melodies in the tradition of South Africa enriched with jazz elements.

Further information

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