Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation [Mango, 1997]
The heart of this soundtrack is eight pieces of ebulliently sophisticated '50s pop from South Africa's swing era, before the cultural genocide that was the razing of Sophiatown. Their lilt is like no other pop groove, a diasporan dream apartheid would soon destroy, and I pray Jumbo Vanrenen won't resist putting out a whole album of it now that he's gotten started. But while the rest is typical soundtrack hodgepodge, it's a hodgepodge of quality--from the African National Congress Choir to Johnny Clegg, from predub poet Lesoko Rampolokeng to pop queen Brenda Fassie. Perhaps most important, the "original score" interludes recognize that South Africa's classic tradition is choral, not symphonic. And the Choir Gauteng A Team has the chops to tell Mambazo the news. A-