makes the contemporary music scene so exciting outside the corporate
bottom-line (lack of musical) philosophy is that extraordinary
freshness can be drawn from diverse genres that on the surface
may sound either old-hat or conversely alien to conventional western
music-making. The naysayers might contend that true originality
might seem to be lost in a great big musical pastiche-fest. Well
I beg to differ.
Hottentots are a duo, Carl Cleves who sings and plays guitar and
Parissa Bouas who also sings and plays various percussion instruments.
They are based in Byron Bay and make frequent appearances at the
various folk festival around the country. If they could be said
to have a base style it stems from the Gaelic / Irish axis which
connects us all to our history, whether you like it or not. But
it doesn't end there. In fact it's just the beginning as essential
Australianness is put through a variegated multi-cultural blender
hat demonstrates how all music can be honestly linked if treated
opener to their new CD, the aptly titled "Graceful" is a very
good indication of the Hottentot's modus operandi, acoustic guitar
and flute that could be Northern Brazil, laidback African beat,
Martin Tucker's kora flourishes that expertly and musically demonstrate
the spritiual links between West Africa and Ireland, Andrew Sisters
section with downtown bluesy harmonica and Martin Tucker again,
this time giving the number a zydeco tang with a melodica. Yet
the whole thing sounds strangely Australian without sounding silly.
makes the Hottentots truly outstanding is that they have fashioned
15 strong melodies (yes, folks that alien concept that distinguishes
cogent commentary from empty rhetoric) that generously accommodate
calypso, country, Irish folk, Madagascan music as the wonderful
instrumental Welcome Home demonstrates, Zimbabwean mbira colours,
Latino Afro-Beat, rap or Brazilian forro. In fact I refer the
reader to the gypsy / jewish intro to Zefinha, brillianrly emoted
by Parissa before turning into a scorch the paint of the wall
forro with wailing melodica and compulsive rhythm.
lyrics are something else again dealing with issues of loss, homecoming,
mischievous dogs, the oppression of the little man (us) or love
in a beguiling, natural manner, be it with Carl's warm, cheekily
rustic tones or Parissa's superbly dulcet ones. The contributions
of the well-chosen accompanying musicians can hardly be underestimated
either, whether it's the sublime insouciance of jazz virtuoso
John Hoffman's flugelhorn on Back in Byron Bay or the Celtic beauty
of Cleis Pearce's violin on the haunting ballad Little Fox. Diverse
Graceful may be, but the fact that it is the work of the one entity
is never in doubt as the CD closes with Mabo, a sprightly and
genuinely exciting reggae number with some scorching brass and
sax work from ace Brazilian band Skank.
there's any musical justice Graceful will be voted the Australian
World Record of the year in any opinion poll you may care to name.
Jasiutowitcz Diaspora World Beat magazine #8 Spring 2001