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"Matsuli Music is proud is announce the re-issue of African Songbird, the masterpiece from South Africa's greatest jazz singer, Sathima Bea Benjamin. Originally released in 1976, African Songbird was a debut long overdue. A 1959 recording debut, which would have been South Africa's first ever LP, was shelved. Her 1963 recording with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn was put aside by Reprise's then head of A&R, Frank Sinatra, for not being commercial enough. African Songbird is a tour-de-force, and arguably the most dramatic and powerful release on Rashid Vally's As-shams label. The opener, 'Africa', is the album's fulcrum, a statement of breath-taking musical, personal and political complexity. It is a song of exile, of loss, and of return: a song that is both personal and universal, speaking for a people made homeless in their own land, speaking to those whose ambivalent embrace of exile ached for a homecoming. It speaks too of hope and resolution. 'Africa' is a personally powerful declaration from a remarkable African woman: a song of deferred self and dislocated space finally resolved in an emotional homecoming. It is a song of celebration and mourning -- a heartfelt paean to her home that is shot through with the raw sorrow of lament. Sathima's voice, wholly unique in jazz singing, gradually sheds its musical supports as the programme develops. From the thickly-layered tumult of 'Africa,' through the characteristic Cape Town swing that informs 'Music,' the instrumentation is quietly reduced, then finally dispensed with. The title track is performed a capella, but for the natural sounds of the sea coast, the gulls and surf of the Cape itself. After many years of silence, two deferred albums, and over a decade of rootless exile from a home that had been made inhospitable by the inhumanity of apartheid, Sathima's voice is finally heard, alone with her song, naturally, like a bird. The CD is housed in a six panel digipak."