Ngo Ma

Brownswood • 2023

Whenever people spoke of Pretoria in recent times, that happened in the context of amapiano. IzangoMa, however, have little to do with the buttery kwaito house hybrid, even though the collective of South African and Mozambican musicians is based there. On the other hand, just about everything else made its way into their idiosyncratic and highly syncretic sound. »Ngo Ma« for Gilles Peterson’s label Brownswood has found two obvious models in Sun Ra and Fela Kuti for the group’s cosmic post-jazz-post-afrobeat-post-IDM-post-rock-post-big-band-post-everything aesthetic, but Sibusile Xaba and Ashley Kgabo’s project also pays its dues to other styles and forebearers. This includes the mothers of this world. The Zulu title »Ngo Ma«—as a short form of the band’s name, the word for the traditional Zulu and Buntu healers—can be translated as »of the mother.« Taking the figure of the woman as a metonymy for the origin of life, cosmic harmony and so on is of  course somewhat clichéd, however the music is. Instead, »Ngo Ma« achieves the impossible: To create something entirely unique from many discrete influences. It seems as if Peterson has found a sort of distillation of all his DJ mixes ever—notoriously eclectic but coherent, down-to-earth but far, far out.