Having noted at the essential South African music blog, Electric Jive, a series of entries in July about Sathima Bea Benjamin, I was preparing a blog post to highlight wonderful resources brought forth at this fine group blog.
After Electricjive featured her to help highlight series of concerts celebrating her artistry presented in Cape Town in July, this was to be the hook for a post here.
Now, sadly, Sathima Bea Benjamin has passed on, flown away away really, and, my purpose is now is to urge my readers to check her music out. Her human spirit is large, humane, and so was her lifetime of song-making.
Cape Town Celebrates Sathima Bea Benjamin (August 5th)
Her set at Tagores Jazz Bar was recorded:
Trailer for the limited release documentary, Sathima’s Windsong
Archivist and scholar of South African music Matsuli (Matthew Temple) has issued on Bandcamp (and through iTunes,) the very rare al-Shams recording of Sathima, African Songbird. From 1976, the record obviously is one of the now-found cornerstones of the revolutionary artistic response to apartheid.
A real treat:
Obituary at AllAfrica
Concert notice at profoundlysouthafrican.za
From a terrific article published in 2006.
Along with the legend of Buddy Bolden, the invisibility of Sathima Bea Benjamin will go down in jazz history as one of the great mysteries of this music. Benjamin, the mother of indie hip-hopper Jean Grae, stands among the greatest musical storytellers to ever hold a mic. She delivers lyrics with such emotion and patient phrasing that she will keep you hanging on to every word, and those words will linger for days, even weeks. And she exudes a kind of romantic innocence, not the kind of romance produced by pain, loss, and experience, but the “first love” variety, the dreaming love we associate with the young. She doesn’t sing the blues; she renders every love song like a first kiss.
Benjamin can create emotional truth and innocence in part because she doesn’t rely on vocal acrobatics or melisma–just pure, crystalline sound. And like Abbey Lincoln and Cassandra Wilson, she has her own unique tone. She has been performing and recording for the past four decades, always to enthusiastic reviews. In fact, she has been “rediscovered” at least three or four times in her career, and each rediscovery generates a flurry of excitement until some gigantic commercial label finds a new, young, sexy thing who can give the people what market researchers say they want. Robin D.G. Kelly, Jazztimes, Sathima Bea Benjamin: The Echo Returns
My hope is that grown up music lovers or anybody with a musically sensitive soul, if you haven’t ever heard her music, leap from this page to your newest exploration. Sathima did not make anything but stellar recordings, and each is a very direct and profound transmission. Starting point? (1) Song Spirit, #2 Musical Echoes iTunes