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(Instinct Africaine coxit6)

Review: Richard Haslop

7 April 2014

The music of South Africa’s consistently brilliant fingerstyle guitarist Tony Cox has always been influenced by his geographical roots, full of mainly instrumental statements about where he’s from and who he is. But quite a lot of what he has played – as well, it must be said, as anybody anywhere – is South African by virtue of the nationality of the player, rather than its inherent musical nature.

“Padkos” is different. On eight of its eleven tracks, Cox covers iconic local songs directly, arranging them, with two sung exceptions, for his highly distinctive solo guitar. These include well-known compositions from a cross-generational pop world that includes Juluka, P J Powers, Hotstix Mabuse, Nico Carstens and even a John Fahey-like take on the easy listening Bert Kaempfert Orchestra, each of them performed with remarkable skill and elan, of course, but also with respect, care, imagination and, most importantly, a huge sense of fun.

Singing for the first time in a long while, he contrasts his own politically bleak blues, Invisible, with Hugh Masekela’s Bring Back Mandela and resurrects Edi Niedelander’s wonderful Ancient Dust Of Africa from decades of obscurity.

The record closes with a gorgeous version of Bright Blue’s Weeping, with orchestra, but, ironically perhaps, the highlight may be his own maskanda inflected Long Walk To Nkandla.

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