Crossover Prog • South Africa

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Canamii biography
Hailing from South Africa, CANAMII was a studio-based project assembled in a manner pretty much inspired by Alan Parson Project, where a few principal members recorded an entire album utilizing outside musicians as needed. The main members in this case were Phil Nel (keyboards) and Claire Whittaker (vocals), and soon after they started working on the project Paul Woodley (guitars) got heavily involved as well.

Due to Phil and Claire's full time job as studio engineers they were able to use the recording studios of EMI without cost - the label considered this project as good training - and whenever the studio wasn't booked and the threesome had spare time simultanously they used the opportunity to work on this project. Various musicians were brought in as needed, and in 1980 it was ready to be released.

A band name was constructed by assembling selected syllables from the star signs of Phil and Claire - Cancer and Gemini. The album was named Concept and issued in 1980, and turned out to be the sole production of this project.

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3.04 | 9 ratings

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Concept by CANAMII album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.04 | 9 ratings

Canamii Crossover Prog

Review by Chris S
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars This 1980 release from the South African band Canamii wasa one off. Whilst I pick up definite leanings to symphonic prog, the general consensus is that they are a better fit for crossover. Either way it is fantastic to see them here on prog archives. The music can be best described as a hybrid sound of Renaissance and Santana but with some excellent classical influence. Claire Whittaker is a good vocalist, not in the same league as a certain Annie Haslam but she does her best on providing pleasant vocal overlays, " The Jester" is a fine example of her ability. There are three drummers credited to " Concept", hence the Afro/jazz rock feel and Santana references. Many similarities with latin American styles.

" Afrock" is agreat introduction to the Canamii sound as is the end instrumental " Tri". For other highlights check out the melancholic " Rain", " Children" and " Feelings" I remember when this was first released on vinyl in South Africa. It was like a breath of fresh air especially as prog as we knew it was waning. There again we did have Steely Dan's Gaucho released in 1980 too as well as Duke so from an overall prog perspective and on reflection a great year. Highly recommended album. Three and a half stars. Great all round musicianship but the vinyl will be extremely hard to come by.


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 Concept by CANAMII album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.04 | 9 ratings

Canamii Crossover Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars 'Concept' is a pretty obscure offering from South Africa that was the brainchild of EMI studio engineer Philip Nel and technician Claire Whittaker. Apparently Nel fancied himself another Alan Parsons and since he had ready access to a quality studio and a large variety of keyboards he decided to crank out an album in the late seventies. Whittaker was chosen for her vocals and because she and Nel had formed, as is explained in the liner notes, a "musical and emotional bond". Right.

While this record was actually released in 1980 it clearly bears marks of very heavy seventies influence which, to be fair, Nel and Whittaker readily admit to. Whittaker claims to be inspired mostly by Annie Haslam and Kate Bush. You can certainly hear a lot of Haslam's vocal mannerisms throughout including the tendency to articulate a lot of vocal strength and emotion, but within a relatively limited octave range. Bush was quite different from that of course, and Whittaker doesn't have anywhere near Kate's range although you can hear a touch of inflection that calls Bush to mind in the middle of "Come and Fly" and the beginning of "Feelings", and Whittaker seems to be attempting the same sort of syncopated, almost percussion-like singing on "And the Moon be as Bright" that Bush would master on 'The Dreaming'. Claire's voice is a bit wispy at times and she certainly is not in a class with either Haslam or Bush but she is very competent and at times manages to even form her own style on tracks like "Children" and "Jester" (although on "Jester" she does manage to remind me just a little of Clare Grogan of Altered Images). She's also been compared to Sonja Kristina of Curved Air but really I think that's more a reflection on the compositional style of the music than her vocals.

Nel names ELP, Yes and King Crimson as his main influences. That doesn't mean anything really except that it marks him as a student of serious seventies prog since just about every serious student of seventies prog claims to be heavily influenced and inspired by ELP, Yes and King Crimson. I personally hear almost nothing that sounds like Crimson on this album, but the lengthy and rather ambitious keyboard passages could easily be attributed to listening to too much Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman as a youngster. "Come and Fly" in particular has grand ambitions but like all the rest of the songs on this album ends far too soon to be a proper progressive work and reinforces an impression that the band had great ideas but not quite enough musical talent to explore them fully. Check out "The Phantom Players" for another example where the band just starts to get going around the 2:30 mark before inexplicably fading to black right in the middle of what should be a transition into a lengthy keyboard/guitar instrumental passage.

The other artists on the album are friends of the band, local Johannesburg artists who were asked to help flesh out various tracks although Paul Woodley does appear on every song and was apparently asked to be an 'official' part of the "band". I say "band" in quotes because again Nel fancied himself another Alan Parsons and ended up never leaving the studio, so this group would disband not long after the project and never appeared as a live act anywhere.

As far as the music I would be inclined to file it in a large pile of other b-list progressive rock acts from the seventies who had access to studio time, instruments normally reserved for much more well-heeled bands, a little time on their hands and dreams that exceeded their abilities. I would do this, except that these guys hailed from South Africa and at the time that country was a bit of a musical incubator, definitely fostering life but in a way that tended to insulate it from the rest of the musical world owing of course to the apartheid movement and fairly universal ban on touring both inside and outside the country. As a result just about anything that came out of South Africa from that era came out in small quantities with no promotion, and tended to sound somehow just a little different than anything else at the time. The same is true of Freedom's Children and Hawk, the only other South African bands from the same general era. Because Canamii aspired to emulate some of their musical heroes but ended up doing it in a pretty different way than the other seventies prog clones, I'm going to say this is a very good record worth seeking out, a high three out of five stars and recommended if you can find it.



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