Assagai - Hey Jude


"I took a few minutes to dig a bit into the background of Assagai's cover of "Hey Jude", featured in entry #140. Assagai was a band of South African expatriates, living in Britian, led by Dudu Pukwana, a legendary alto player who passed away in 1990. He and Assagai trumpeter Mongezi Feza played together, along with Assagai drummer Louis Moholo, in the revolutionary interracial sextet Blue Notes. Increasing harassment in apartheid South Africa forced the ensemble to emigrate to Europe, first to France and then to Switzerland, Denmark and other locations where the musicians were able to make a living. While not as well known as musicians like Hugh Masakela (who they both played with), Pukwana and Feza were prolific and well-respected within the expatriate South African music scene in 1970s Europe. Indeed, you can find Pukwana in truly unexpected places, including in sessions with the Incredible String Band. Assagai had another interesting cover on the album in question - "Telephone Girl" by Jade Warrior, a relatively obscure English prog-rock band who Brian Eno name-checks as an influence on his ambient work. As for what language Assagai are singing in, I'm forced to guess. It's pretty clearly within the Bantu language family. Pukwana was born in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, where the indigenous language is Xhosa, which is probably what we're hearing. I'll try to get a friend who's got a few Bantu languages to give it a listen and see if she can give a definitive answer. A page on Assagai albums..."
Ethan Zuckerman in wfmu

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