by Jean Barker , Channel 24
When Neo went off on his own missions after the release of Born in a Taxi (1998); writing soundtracks, operas, working solo, and so on, it seemed we wouldn’t get to indulge ourselves with his pop side for a while. But it’s time to welcome back the partnership of Neo Muyanga and Masauko plus top notch guests for Good Life, a celebration of some of the best things: hope, pride rebellion and love.
Yes, it is a sort of a post-struggle, struggle album. Sort of. Veterans of the 80s ongo-bongo days in wooden-floored bars will be reminded of their youth by this earnest pan-african fusion pop. But Good Life is no hippie jam. Each track is finely crafted, meaningfully arranged, and beautifully recorded and mixed, with SA’s hottest bassist Concord Nkabinde providing the invisible backbone, Neo’s and Masauko’s voices blended with dry delicacy out front and Tlale Makhene tickling the percussion parts.
The lyrics tackle topics ranging from responsibility on “Testify” (because “our ancestors didn’t die for this”) to crushes (“Aweright”) to fallings out on “Round the Bend”, to getting it right on right with the beautifully impressionist “Gliding” and the intense images of “Leaves”. The highlight? Well mine is “Pen in My Hand”, a joyous, funny, uplifting song with a healing creative power.
Good Life is an odd one. So much of it is about what we need to fight and rebel against, and yet I defy anyone to listen to it and not wind up smiling in the end. It’s a good life, see, because some people are still fighting the good fight – and not because we’ve already won the battle.