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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Various Artists

By Bruce Miller
Published January 16, 2008

Lesotho Calling: Lesiba And Sekhankula Music

Last year, SWP label owner Michael Baird headed into Lesotho (a tiny country completely surrounded by South Africa) to see if there were any lesiba players left. The lesiba is a long, wood instrument played cocked to the side, with a hand cupped to hold it to the mouth. Occasionally resembling the lower register of a saxophone or the oinks of a hog, it’s one of the strangest sounds a Westerner is likely to hear. Yet it’s highly melodic, often wavering sing-songishly while the player grunts behind it. Baird’s disc features six different lesiba players, as well as recordings of the sekhankula, a one-string, gas can resonator fiddle. The sekhankula tunes sound somewhat metallic and wind swept, but incredibly repetitive and melodic. Ultimately, this is a disc which only reveals itself after a few listens however, the reward of hearing unique and little-known Southern African folk music makes it well worthwhile.