His latest offering, Invitation, is a masterpiece

Gugu Sibiya

Gugu Sibiya

Thanks to his beautifully crafted album that has incorporated the talent of youngsters from various genres, Don Laka emerges as the class act of 2007.

On his latest masterpiece, Invitation, Laka has not only put his best foot forward but has retained his title as one of the most innovative musos whose offerings always take his audience to the next level. Daring to tread where most fear, Laka invited 23 artists who included Theo Kgosikae, Jahseed, Afrotenor, Max Mntambo, Judith Sephuma, Gloria Bosman, Andy Brown, Unathi and Victor Masondo.

"It's always been one of my dreams to record with the best artists across genres. Although it has taken such a long time to pull it off, the collaboration has been worth the wait," he says citing clashing schedules where one artist would be performing somewhere, another in the studio or on tour as the reason for the delay.

"Assembling these young artists was an ambitious plan on my part but I was determined to come up with something like a theatre production. The project would then document the different styles of music. I am grateful that everybody came to the party."

Invitation is an explosion of sound, smooth jazz and the most nimble fingers on the piano. It's a kind of album you would like to play as you chase the horizon. It has that international quality about it.

Laka, who has always recorded jazz in all its variants, says his music grows with each release. "I always challenge myself to improve on my last album and to craft a new sound that will add a new dimension to the genre."

He says his music defines and articulates the aspirations of people on the social and political front. "Destiny was great in that it set me on a different path altogether," he says.

"My ambition is to document local music and collaborate at a time when I am reflecting on my music career with the help of other musicians. They are so good they demand exceptional level of musicianship.

"It's the beautiful music delivered by artists who are like actors in this incredible theatre production, giving a comprehensive account of the various influences. As honestly as I could, I have given an insight into the mind of the individual artist at the time of the recording, musically."

Chuffed, he says Revolution and Black Coffee brought a new dimension to the collaboration, whether while "writing or occasionally singing," recalls the prolific pianist who also raved over Jahseed and Theo.

"I enjoyed those experimental moments in the studio," Laka says nostalgically.

"During the recording, I was nervous and excited. I am not sure what my behaviour was like in the studio. I am proud to say this is the ultimate product I could have delivered in a long time," he says boldly.

The kwaai-jazz maestro says the driving force behind his vision was the burning desire to chart yet another winning course in a music career strewn with stunning firsts and brilliant music.

"From here on, it can only get better. I see this project developing into a series that will feature different artists with each release. The experience was priceless and I am walking away with an understanding of South African culture and respect for artists, young and old.

"This project was an eye-opener. And for the first time ever, I have vocals on my album," he says proudly.