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Foster Manganyi na Tintsumi Ta Tilo - Ndzi Teke Reindzo no. 1

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Artist: Foster Manganyi na Tintsumi Ta Tilo

Album: Ndzi Teke Reindzo no. 1

Label: Honest Jon's

Review date: Jan. 13, 2011

Foster Manganyi is a pastor from Giyani, Limpopo, whose music pours forth from the same studios that produced Honest Jons’s landmark Shangaan Electro collection. This Shangaan dance music mostly shares a particular, initially peculiar character -- all MIDI tones, unrelenting yet gossamer rhythms, and choral incantations -- that has it standing far outside much modern dance music. As if making a virtue of its modes of circulation, primarily on cassettes (Ndzi Teke Riendzo is a reissue of a 2008 cassette), the productions also float within a bass-less realm, further accentuating the trebly charm of the tracks’ rickety sounds.

If the initial impact of Shangaan Electro is its unrelenting velocity, though, Foster Manganyi is rather more flexible -- for every track of hyper-popping beats, there’s a gorgeous gospel scrolling past in mid-tempo. So tracks like “Amen-Amen” peel away the speed associated with Shangaan dance music to reveal melodies and arrangement sleights-of-hand that are beautiful in their MIDI-sourced thinness. This transparency of tone becomes Ndzi Teke Riendzo‘s most engaging trait, particularly when interacting with the call-and-response of Foster Manganyi and his gospel choir. This flows through into the high-life guitars that wind through “Ndzi To Tivisela,” which have Ndzi Teke Riendzo tracking much closer to tradition.

When the speed does ratchet up, as on the opening “Ndzi Teke Riendzo" or “Moya Wanga," the beats pop and scuttle in ways that, as Daniel Martin-McCormick noted in his review of Bangs And Works Volume 1, curiously echo the Footwork productions coming out of Chicago. Watch the YouTube footage both of Tshetsha Boys, and of Footwork dancing, and there’s even closer reference. For all their repetitiveness, these speedier cuts feature so many unexpected moments that you’re repeatedly caught unawares: The hyper-fast drum rolls buzz through the air like someone unzipping a suit-bag; the omnipresent, fluty whistle bustles its way out of the mix like children breaking the surface of the river.

I recall recently talking with a friend about whether anything truly surprising had caught our ears in 2010. In a year that, more than ever, seemed to be about the atomization of dance music’s genres, I had suspected the question would lead down blind alleys -- lots of one-off, mildly engaging moments of invention, but no movements or scenes you could really get behind. But no -- I immediately fixed on Ndzi Teke Riendzo, and the Shangaan Electro compilation, as the two records that have done the most surprising around the household. This has largely to do with the unexpectedness of this music’s unique character, its accelerationist aesthetic and magnitizdat means of production crossing with the plaintive cry of the vocals.

Shangaan Electro was the most surprising of the two, but in a way, I prefer Ndzi Teke Riendzo. It may not have quite the same ear-shattering impact as the compilation that preceded its re-release, but there’s a welcome trade-off in the emotional heft of the tracks. After all, who imagined a cheap-sounding MIDI piano, treble-shuttering Casio beats and the open-ended weave and thread of gospel choral could be so affecting? But it is, and we’re here to testify. Glorious.

By Jon Dale

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