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Dance Mama!
Artist: Christine Vaindirlis
URL: Http://www.christianevaindirlis.com 
Label: Ubuntu World Music
10 tracks / 61:41
 
Christine Vaindirlis' wonderful debut release is one of those unexpected pleasures – a refreshing detour from the stream of sound-alike bands and drama-queen solo 'artists' that litter the musical landscape these days. Dance Mama (I hope that Christine will forgive me for leaving off the title's exclamation point in deference to this review making better grammatical sense) is a uniquely personal celebration of   both the artist's physical homeland and her emotional journey from one culture to another. Never self-indulgent but self-aware enough to allow us to get a peek inside her soul, Vaindirlis also shares her observations about life from Johannesburg to Brooklyn – and this young lady has a lot to say.
 
Dance Mama combines elements of traditional South African music with a strong dose of jazz, funk, rock and soul.  There's a sense of celebration that runs through the album starting with the opening track, “Indaba (Home),” where she sings, “A new day dawns in a brand-new world,...a place where the music never sleeps – where there's dancing and singing, And jamming 'till morning.” This is not to say that Dance Mama is a World Music party mix – far from it. Vaindirlis' music is far too complex, the jams too dense and intense, and her lyrics too deep and thought-provoking to simply call this a dance album, or feel-good music – Dance Mama encompasses much more than that.
 
Musically, you'll find traces of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Seawind, Basia, Miriam Makeba and others in Vaindirlis' eclectic blend of zydeco, Marabi, world-folk and jazz. Very much in control of every aspect of the project, Christine's imprint is on everything from the writing, arranging, production, and even the package artwork! The horn charts are Tower of Power crisp, the percussion and drum work always hot, the bass pumping and bubbling, the guitar alternately chunky and fiery, and the keyboard work stunning. Tying this all together are Vaindirlis' strong vocals – both lead and back-up – which soar, whoop, and whisper, where needed.
 
The songs are intricately structured, often shifting tone and tempo once or twice before they're through. “Call to Freedom,” for example, explodes into a tight, powerful jazz/funk groove with a hot horn section backing up the lyrics, “I could tell there was something going on / I know you knew it too... a little fear inside / Hear the call! Hear the call to freedom, hear the call.” The song surprisingly segues  to a more hopeful tone at the end where the music dramatically shifts from a minor to a major key, making 'the call to freedom'  more hopeful than fearful.
 
The Seawind-like “Fighting or Surviving” features a wonderful descending horn riff that leads to a stunning monster jam featuring some of the most impressive piano work I've heard in years (a young  woman named Hiromi – watch out for her!) followed by some fiery acid-jazz guitar licks.
 
“Should I Make You Pay” follows with some cool, low-key jazzy playing and subtle, mature vocal stylings from Vaindirlis.
 
“Tell Me” is perhaps the album's show-stopper, and the first of two back-to-back relationship songs where Christine proves that she's not a lady to mess with. Funky, sassy and powerful, she could intimidate Janet Jackson singing these lyrics: “I don't know why you have to be so nasty / Tell me – what's up with that?,” or “ I'm not your mother, your father, your sister, your brother / and just 'cause you've got money, you think you can abuse me – No!”  Once again, there's an impressive acid-jazz middle section powerful enough to scare any sane man into good behavior! The song finishes with a slow, almost-ominous coda: voice and bowed-bass only, intoning, “Don't you know / When the time comes you will reap what you sow? Does it cost you now to be kind? And how's your soul? Don't you know that now? You will reap back....”
 
The strong woman theme continues on five minutes of hot, funky soul that would make James Brown envious - “No More Drama.” This turns out to be the storm before the calm, said 'calm' being the Basia-like closing ballad, “Making it home Someday,” which brings us full-circle back to the main theme of the project.
 
Is it time to branch out and widen your musical palate? Dance Mama just might be what you need to experience a little bit of South African spice -  by way of Brooklyn, NY. 

 

Bert Saraco
http://www.myspace.com/expressimage          
http://expressimagephoto.tripod.com

4 ½ TOCKS 
 
 
 
 

 
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