Johannesburg Afro-Jazz Collective SPAZA to Release New Soundtrack Album

Photo | Andy Mkosi & Tumba Makonga

Johannesburg Afro-Jazz Collective SPAZA will release UPRIZE!, a new album on Mushroom Hour Half Hour.

Conceived in the Mushroom Hour Half Hour lab, SPAZA is a band with no permanent personnel; each lineup is assembled for the express purpose of recording one-off improvised or workshopped material. In 2019, the band, comprising a group of musicians with individual and collective links to Johannesburg’s jazz, afro funk, and experimental electro scenes, released a self-titled debut album.

UPRIZE! soundtracks a documentary film of the same name about the 1976 Soweto uprising, the definitive turning point in the fight against apartheid. It was recorded in Yeoville, Johannesburg, during a three-day improvised scoring workshop in 2016. We’re told that the adventure of scoring a film that was still being put together—meaning only snatches of footage and audio were available to the musicians via a projection on the wall—had a “direct bearing” on the outcome of the recording.

The sessions featured bassist Ariel Zamonsky, percussionist Gontse Makhene, pianist, trombone player and singer Malcolm Jiyane, as well as vocalist Nonku Phiri. Besides Zamonsky and Makhene, who return to their stations at the rhythm section, Phiri and Jiyane are new inductees into SPAZA philosophy. As in the initial release, the idea was to jam around a concept rather than to coalesce into a fully-fledged band.

Sonically, the record continues the magic of the debut album, but with a deeper and more mournful sound that honors those who lost their lives fighting against apartheid. The sonic palette consists of interview clips and other sounds from the film, interweaving with the mournful sounds from the recording process.

Since its foundation in 2012 as a pirate radio show, Mushroom Hour Half Hour has evolved into a unique independent recording imprint based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The label focuses on artists and musicians who are not in the mainstream, catching avant-garde sounds as and where they come into being.

The album cover design comes from Graeme Arendse.


01. Bantu Education
02. Sizwile
03. Mangaliso Sobukwe
04. Solomon, Tsietsi & Khotso
05. The Black Consciousness Movement
06. Banna Ba Batsumi
07. Bayasiphazamisa
08. Xolile Mosi
09. We Got a Lot a Work to Do

UPRIZE! LP is scheduled for October 16 release. Meanwhile, you can stream “Sizwile” in full below, and pre-order here.

Album Artwork | Photo courtesy of African News Agency | Photographer unknown

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