Khoi Khonnexion (Jethro Louw - poetry, Glen Arendse and Garth Erasmus - indigenous instruments) has been performing in Cape Town for ten years, during which time they have risen to the forefront of the first nation arts movement in South Africa. Their live performances feature trance-inducing improvisations on homemade instruments inspired by indigenous models, and dramatic recitations of original poetry by 'The Ghetto Poet,' Jethro Louw. In their workshops, they have worked with at-risk youth and adults from all backgrounds to find a source of healing in the musical heritage of southern Africa. Now, with their first full-length album release, Kalahari Waits, they explore new creative territory while raising funds for the Basarwa San in the Kalahari desert, who were trampled and pushed aside when diamonds were found in their 'protected' homeland. The self-released album, a collaboration with American producer Nate May, follows the sun across the sky with indigenous sounds, loops, field recordings, and poetry that wrestles with Khoisan identity in the modern world. REVIEWS: 'If you think you're going to get a serving of exotic, new age 'world music', think again. This trio poetry / music creates the most immediate and elemental impressions; stark settings for passionate self-discovery and direct communication, with the emotional resonance of ritual and the purity and expressiveness of folk music.' - Neio Natif 'There is a purity and lyrical grace reached only by the road of experience. The decade-long odyssey that is Khoi Khonnexion is a miracle of South African artistic survival. They are consummate cultural workers / activists (not to mention role models) who have somehow survived the disgraceful state of arts funding in our country. But it is better to be on the margins of such ugliness when you have the power to create such beauty as the contents of this masterpiece. Culled largely from ten months' worth of field recordings, Kalahari Waits is a work of collective genius that defies easy categorisation while still maintaining a powerful emotional charge throughout. It was well worth the wait.' - Abel Februarie LINER NOTES: The musical bow has proven historically to be more than a musical instrument. For the ancient hunter-gatherers, it was a hunting instrument, a vital tool for survival. Some say that it has been an instrument of camouflaged communication, disguised in the sounds of nature. Now, with the release of Khoi Khonnexion's Kalahari Waits, it is an instrument of healing. Everyone in the world is descended from the indigenous people of southern Africa. Most have developed separate national and ethnic identities somewhere along the way, but the Khoisan still remain in the birthplace of humanity. Here they have shared the fate of all first nation peoples around the world - they have lost battles fought on the enemy's terms. Invading forces which placed the highest value on material reward have prevailed materially over those who see the earth as a source of enlightenment rather than a resource to exploit. Amidst the continent's efforts to shed the colonial mindset, these battles are still being fought today. In 1997 the San people living on the Kalahari Game Reserve, which had been granted to them by the government 36 years prior, were forcibly removed to make way for diamond drillers. They were now living in squalid urban environments - conditions which they had never faced in their 20,000-year history. They protested to deaf ears until 2006, when the resettlement was ruled unconstitutional. Far from a happy ending, they have still been denied access to water, and have been sabatoged and abused during their attempts to return home. In South Africa, the Khoisan have infused themselves with all sectors of society, most notably the people known under apartheid as Coloureds, who also have genealogical roots all over Africa and Asia. In the 20th century these people faced an enforced confusion about their identities, with the government subscribing to it's own self-serving racial dogma. Now in the 21st century, the oppressed have been vindicated. But there remains much to do to combat the spiritual poverty which Steve Biko warned about. In the 21st century, the cultures which have placed the most value on material gain and, therefore have wielded the most material power, are in crisis. Their alienating attitude toward the natural world has left the Earth in a sick state. Greed has threatened colossal economies. There is no better time to listen to the muffled voices of those who have lost the material war. Khoi Khonnexion is a chorus of these voices. The poems speak of the truth of the natural order, the struggle with oppression, and the challenges that lie before us. The homemade instruments are inspired by the instrumental power of their indigenous counterparts, but are not historical replicas. "You can only discover yourself when you're a child," Jethro once told me. The instruments are products of a process of discovery starting from square one. This process is one of the many ways Khoi Khonnexion finds healing in their work. Khoi Khonnexion's live performances have helped to heal many souls in Cape Town and across South Africa. They are always conceived as multi-faceted experiences, of which sound is only a part. It was obvious that a recorded album would require a different approach. A big part of this approach was using field recordings, which move your stereo speakers from your living room into a world of natural sounds and of city life, and provide context for the poems they support. We also capitalised on the ability to combine sounds from varied sources during the editing process. You will hear vocals recorded in my linen closet in Cape Town, crickets chirping in a Khoi farm in the semiarid plains, rainstorms in Malawi and in West Virginia, USA (simultaneously), wind and waves from Robben Island, a gorra (bowed single-string instrument) shrieking in a live performance at the Katilist theatre, and samples from a cassette of impassioned improvisation from the beginning of Khoi Khonnexion's history. It has been my honour over the last ten months to work with these three gentlemen. Creative, dedicated, and warm in spirit, they have taught me invaluable lessons in life and in art. I hope that, in this album, you can find some of the wisdom that they have shown me. -Nate May Cape Town May 2009.
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