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Hawk - African Day CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.08 | 10 ratings

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3 stars When it comes to South African music its kind of hard to define what is progressive and what isn’t, particularly for people who aren’t familiar with the culture. Of course it doesn’t help that the country went through nearly half a century of virtual isolation on the international stage due to their apartheid policies, and honestly my only other musical point of reference from that period is Freedom’s Children, a group whose music was just as difficult to classify. Guitarist Julian Laxton, who would join the band for their second and final album, came from Freedom’s Children, and there are some notable similarities between the bands, although Hawk was considerably less heavy and employed a wider range of native percussion, provided mostly by a session musician identified only as ‘Dave’.

Vocalist/guitarist Dave Ornellas is one of the blackest-sounding white guys I’ve ever heard, and the vocals harmonies throughout the album will leave you double-checking the album artwork and liner notes just to confirm these are actually five white guys. The percussion is outstanding, featuring copious helpings of native hard drums and other acoustic percussion. This helps to make up for production that is less than stellar, with the mixing of the album in particular coming across as haphazard at times. The vocals tend to be unevenly amplified, and at times the saxophone and especially the flute get buried in the mix.

Other than a pretty decent rendition (except again for the poor engineering) of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” these are all original compositions, with only drummer Braam Malherbe receiving no specific credits for either arrangements or lyrics.

The album’s high point is clearly the opening epic title track, a seventeen minute-plus wandering tune that shifts between blasts of guitar, acoustic percussion breaks, wispy flute work, multi-part harmonies, and occasional spoken-word passages. There is also more than a few points where the band appears to resort to improvisational jamming not unlike some of the tamer examples of Caribbean reggae.

Otherwise the songs are brief, decent but un-ambitious, and quite steeped in vocal harmonies and percussive syncopation. There’s nothing to really make the music exceptional in any way, other than the fact it provides one of the few available examples of modern popular music from a country that never managed to export much of that during this period. I can’t say this is really a must-have piece, but it has some interest value to students of modern folk and ‘world’ music. Three stars is the best I can give this album in all fairness, although if your progressive music tastes lean away from lots of acoustic percussion and layered folk vocals that might be too high. Only mildly recommended.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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