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Tiyiselani Vomaseve: A Bracing Life Force

Moving radically in two directions at once, "Na Xaniseka (I'm Suffering)" uses traditional Shangaan vocals and marimba, as well as a deep roots sound from southern Africa, but it's produced with super-fast techno beats. This is no slick reworking by outsiders; it's the creation of grassroots producer Nozinja (a.k.a. Dog), who sells his audio and video products in the tens of thousands to an intensely devoted local Shangaan market. Shangaan traditional music has long been noted for its rapid tempos, and one of Nozinja's innovations has been to crank that speed to newly manic levels. Videos of costumed, face-painted dancers stepping through impossibly fast footwork enhance the effect. Musically, the sound is sparse despite its frantic pace. The soundscape juxtaposes acoustic marimba and electric keyboards, in place of the old bass-and-electric-guitar formula.

Tiyiselani Vomaseve, one of Nozinja's most popular discoveries, is a pair of sisters who sing in hauntingly oblique harmonies. Their woozy melodies loom almost ominously over the driving, pointillist beat of the music. It's not hard to believe, as "Na Xaniseka" says, that they are "suffering," but clearly, they're not giving up. There is a bracing life force in this music, and particularly this performance -- no-nonsense techno tradition, as well as one of the freshest "new" sounds to arise in African music in a long time.

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