Klaasen revives old SA favourites on new album
Singer collaborates with ace guitarist Ntaka to recall township jazz vibe
Lorraine Klaasen, who has lived in Canada for years selling SA music and culture to audiences overseas, has resumed her international mission with a new album.
Klaasen was born and raised in Soweto in a family of musicians, including her mother – the late jazz legend Thandi Klaasen – and an aunt who was part of female trio the Dark City Sisters.
Her latest album Ukubonga (Gratitude), a collaboration with guitarist Mongezi Ntaka, hit the shelves on November 11. With it, Klaasen goes back to her childhood memories as she revisits the SA songbook by rerecording sounds she grew up listening to and shaped her music career.
Some of the songs in her album were first made famous by the likes of Miriam Makeba, Dorothy Masuku and Busi Mhlongo, who have since passed on. The songs include mainstays such as Fiela, Sekusile, Meet Me at the River, Jikele Maweni, Kilimanjaro and Ilanga Selishonile.
With her beautiful mellow voice, Klaasen gave the classic songs a descent interpretation which is likely to catch the attention of new, younger audience, more so with the update given by Ntaka's guitar.
Washington DC-based Ntaka worked for many years with late raggae legend Lucky Dube as a member of his band.
“As an artist, I realised the importance of changing things and to do things differently. Covid-19 has given us time to relook at ourselves because we are always in a hurry. I wanted to do something about the SA songbook just to remember those songs that were popular in the township.
"I am happy about the final product because it is very organic and acoustic. You know with SA music, it is not only about singing but about the message and storytelling.
"In Africa, we don’t romanticise about things, we tell stories. I worked with Mongezi because I knew that he understands the South African sound and the direction I wanted to take.
“Take the song Ilanga Selishonile, it reminds me of sis Busi Mhlongo. She was my old-time favourte singer. I just wish my mother was alive to listen to this album. The music takes me back to my childhood where I listened to the music of artists like Sophie Mgcina, Mahotella Queens and Margaret Mcingana. I also listened to the music of Dark City Sisters because my aunt was a member of the group. It is more about the songs that inspired me and shaped my music career when I was young.”
Klaasen will also be honoured at the SA Music Week that has been taking place at the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani since Wednesday until today.
She will be acknowledged alongside other SA’s great musos like DJ Black Coffee, Trompies, Master KG, Makhadzi, Jonathan Butler, Jimmy Dludlu, Zola 7 and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
“I saw that I will be honoured among SA stars and I am proud that I single-handedly promoted SA music in Canada and abroad. It is something that never left me. It is a wonderful gift that I inherited from my late mother.
"I have been recording SA music of the 40s, 50s and 60s and I will continue doing that. I am truly honoured to be able to be acknowledged at home. I have received many awards but this one is important because I am honoured at home.”
The singer is planning to come to SA in January where she will be doing research about some of the classic songs and also perform.
Klaasen is set to perform at Niki’s Jazz and Restaurant in Newtown, Johannesburg, on January 14.
She will further be doing interviews with some of the legends in trying to understand the history behind many classic songs in the country with an aim to promote them abroad.
Klaasen has released a string of albums, with some winning her international accolades in the process.
Her album A Tribute to Miriam Makeba won Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year in 2013.
She was awarded the Hagood Hardy prize for winning in the World Music category.
She has further received the Singer-Songwriter of the Year award, given to singer-songwriters having accumulated the most success in radio play in Canada in 2014.
In 2007, she was awarded Prix image Award and further won Planet of Africa award in 2008. In 2020, she received Forest City London Music Award.