Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Ever since the recording industry began marketing African music to Westerners, it's been disheartening to note how many acts have embraced glossy, high-tech production style, to the point where their music starts to resemble the overprocessed Anglo-American pop slop that sent so many listeners to the international music bins in the first place. It's not so much that African acts are filtering the grit out of their art to broaden its appeal to foreigners--on the contrary, it appears that the tendency for musicians to be attracted to studio slickness may simply be universal. Certainly the urge to modernize is understandable, and it would be condescending to insist that African musicians keep their music and recordings technologically "primitive." But one does miss the scrappy, spontaneous edge of earlier records, as surely in African music as in American rock and roll. Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens offer a lesson in how African pop music can be modernized without blunting its bite. The fact that they've been performing since the mid-60s may give them a bedrock confidence others lack; at any rate, they've managed to assimilate synthesizers and other innovations without losing their essential edge. The contrast between Mahlathini's gravelly groan and the Queens' lilting high harmonies still makes for an exquisite textural balance, like whipped cream and nuts. Any discussion of contemporary South African township jive starts here, of course. Saturday, Equator Club, 4715 N. Broadway; 728-2411.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Renaldo Migaldi

  • The List: July 22-28, 2010

    The List: July 22-28, 2010

    Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet, Juana Molina, Struck by Lightning, David Dondero, Natacha Atlas, and more
    • Jul 22, 2010
  • A Son of Sun

    A Son of Sun

    It's been 50 years since he recorded at Sam Phillips's legendary studio and more than 30 since he quit music to drive a limo, but rockabilly pioneer Hayden Thompson is getting back into the business.
    • Nov 29, 2007
  • Thomas E. Ricks

    • Sep 28, 2006
  • More »

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
BigMouth Chicago Shakespeare Theater
September 18
Performing Arts
Communion Den Theatre
September 20

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories