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South African improvised jazz group SPAZA share their new album

June 2019

Stream the latest release to come from Johannesburg's Mushroom Hour Half Hour sound lab

Recording imprint Mushroom Hour Half Hour have announced the latest record to come out of their experimental sound lab, situated in South Africa's Johannesburg. SPAZA is “a band with no permanent personnel, with each line-up assembled for the express purpose of recording improvised or workshopped material.” The tracks making up this eponymous LP are free jams by musicians with individual and collective links to Johannesburg’s jazz, Afro funk and experimental electro scenes.

'Spaza' is a word for an informal neighbourhood store, commonplace in South Africa. According to the label, the spaza has come to signify an “entrepreneurial spirit, especially in the country’s black townships where economic barriers to business ownership mean that only a few can attain the status of formal business ownership”. It is also the name of the gallery in Troyeville where the album was recorded.

The musicians involved in this collaboration include Nosisi Ngakane on vocals and effects, Ariel Zamonsky on upright bass, Siya Makuzeni on vocals, effects and trombone, Gontse Makhene on vocals and percussion, João Orecchia on electronics, and Waldo Alexander playing electronic violin.

“The day was completely magical”, says Ngakane. “The musicians created like we had played with each other for years. The one thing I really enjoy about Mushroom Hour jam session is that there is no expectation to be anything in particular, there is no need for musician to prove their skill in anyway, and there is an unspoken rule that we are here for the music and not ourselves, and that feeling when the music truly guides you is what makes it magical.”

“If composition is the arrangement of energy into cohesive form,” continues Mushroom Hour Half Hour co-founder Nhlanhla Mngadi, “improvisation is trusting the energy to lead, to find and make form in progression. The Spaza is where we coalesce for [...] out-jamming the jam we find ourselves in.”

SPAZA is released by Mushroom Hour Half Hour on 21 June. The album is reviewed by Francis Gooding in The Wire 425. Subscribers can read the review in full via the digital archive.

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