Bea Benjamin - African Songbird

05 September, 2013

By C. Mike


I bought this album 3 or 4 months ago when Matsuli Music, "a label set up in London by Matt Temple to resurrect sought-after afro-jazz classics from South Africa", decided it was about time for this gem to be released yet again.


Things you have to know:

Bea Benjamin is considered the best female voice in South Africa ever. In my humble words, the sounds she produces are so magical, that even a 5-year-old spoiled kid would stare in awe at her incredible ability.

Another thing you have to know is that Bea traveled around Europe and America throughout the 60s with her husband Dollar Brand, also known as Abdullah Ibrahim, a guy who is responsible for arranging the spectacular music on this record. What with the amazing sax power of Basil Coetzee and the recruitment of two drummers playing at different timespaces, a surreal 3D wall of sound irradiatedly exploded throughout the record. When Bea went back to Apartheid-governed South Africa, she decided to record this album for her people.

A last thing you need to know is that, as I was writing this review, the news of her death on August 20th  appeared on my screen. She was 76 and this record is definitely her own Swan Lake.

Comprised of just 3 songs in a matter of 35 minutes, it provides the listener with an experience truly captivating and unreal. Her voice in "Africa" , the central masterpiece, is beyond boundaries. It's simply beautiful. The musicians give their best producing an equally deserving sound going back and forth in terms of tempo and power dynamics. The trip is strong and in 21 minutes it gets to the finish with class. Next song, "Music" is Bea singing again in a less complex arrangement with just a cool bass rhythm, a flute melody and  a drum-crazy solo which feels like gushing all the way up from the abyss of her soul. Finally, the album closes with "African Songbird", an a capella song of Bea singing like a bird. Which she almost certainly is.

I didn't write this review to explain the music. When music like this is produced, words are insufficient. Whatever exclamation marks or big words a reviewer uses, they are obliterated by the real power of the music. I urge you to listen to this album.

It's where music comes from, the deepest side of emotions, it's raw, powerful, spiritual music for the soul. Rejoice. 





Primary Genre: Jazz


Subgenre:  Spiritual African Jazz


Release Date:  1976


Label:   Matsuli Music


Like This And You'll Probably Also Like:  Don Cherry, Phillip Cohran, Doug Carn  


Album Highlights:   All of them





















"It's too early for me to give a final verdict on this as I'm still just a few listens in. What I can say so far is that the portents are very good indeed... let's see how i feel after a few more sessions. "



Contributor mini-profile

C. Mike

C. Mike

12 Fluffy Reviews
"It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens"
Mini bio
Member of the White Room film production team where he works as a director, editor and head chef. His team's clients include the famous and very talented musicians of the Greek music industry. He was also an amazing basketball player, but, nowadays, something's wrong with his shot balance , resulting in very poor performances. Nevertheless, he still believes in a resurection. 
Mike is a vinyl collector, with a pretty pretty good stock. He thinks music is his passion. But is he music's passion???

Favourite Bands / Artists
The Jam
The Verve
Peter Broderick
Sun Ra
Philip Cohran