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THE MELANIE SCHOLTZ MIXTAPE

By Kalamu ya Salaam of Kalamu.com

Saturday, February 25, 2012.

This is contemporary music from South Africa. Yeah, I know that it mostly does not sound like stereotypical "African" music. The artist is South African born and bred. Educated in South Africa with a 2000 college Performer's Diploma in Opera, she is considered by many in South Africa as a major jazz vocalist.

When I first heard her, before I knew anything about her, I thought "art music," primarily because the music covered a wide range of harmonies and tonalities even as it sounded college radio friendly. Her debut album, Zillion Miles, is featured on the end of the Mixtape as are two, number-one singles.

Both "Peaceful Moment," a smooth jazz oriented composition with guitarist Jimmy Dludlu, and “Which Way To Go,” with Electronic Dj’s Iridium Project, went to number one on South African radio. She has both the intelligence and the chops to do a very wide range of music. My favorite recording I've heard is not even her album; she is the featured vocalist on Live In Varanger by the Norwegian band Inkala, and supported by The Festival Choir.

Ms. Scholtz has two recent albums out, Connected and Standards, and I have not been able to get either one through my usual sources, including a couple of South African online sources. Despite most of her recorded music being unavailable to most of us, I'm featuring her anyway because I think what she is doing is both interesting and important.

From Inkala's quasi New Orleans trad line-up with tuba, trombone and clarinet along with trumpet, piano, and drums backed by a wonderfully conducted, multi-voiced choir, to the electro-modern dance selection "Which Way To Go", Melanie Scholtz's covers a lot of ground with nary a misstep. It's easy to hear why she is a feted vocalist in South Africa, the winner of numerous awards, as well as a favorite on the European festival circuit.

I was struck by both the sincerity and expertise of Melanie Scholtz's concert music with Inkala. From the sublime interpretation of Abdullah Ibrahim's magnificent melody "The Wedding" to the Louis Armstrong associated chestnut"Wonderful World," I'm crazy about the way this project was both orchestrated and the passion the players bring to their various contributions in both ensemble and in solo.

We hear a lot of talk about "world music," about mixing and matching diverse influences, for me this live album reveals the possibilities inherent in a gumbo approach to cultural development. Unlike a soup, the gumbo has a specific base called the "roux," which gives the distinctive flavor regardless of the combinations of other ingredients. In this case the rue was jazz and South African music. It's a tasty treat. Give it a listen; I'm sure you will agree.

Melanie Scholtz Mixtape Playlist

 
Live In Varanger

01 "Connected"

02 "Yakhal'inkomo"

03 "The Wedding"

04 "Interlude"

05 "My Heart Always Wanders"

06 "What A Wonderful World"

 

Zillion Miles

07 "Everything You Need"

08 "Zillion Miles"

09 "This Can't Be Love (reprise)"

10 "Another Day"

 11 "Which Way To Go" - Iridium Project featuring Melanie Scholtz

 12 "Peaceful Moment" - Melanie Scholtz and Jimmy Dludlu

Kalamu ya Salaam is a writer and filmmaker from New Orleans. He is also the founder of Nommo Literary Society - a Black writers’ workshop.

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