Streams Today... Rivers Tomorrow


Be With Records reissue Caiphus Semenya's Streams Today... Rivers Tomorrow, originally released in 1984. Caiphus Semenya, AKA Mr Letta Mbulu, is a South African legend, and Listen To The Wind, his second solo album, is perfect. Now a revered composer, musician, and arranger, Caiphus left apartheid South Africa in the '60s for self-imposed exile in Southern California together with his wife, Letta Mbulu. Settling in Los Angeles he started working with the likes of Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba and other exiled and semi-exiled South African artists, as well as, of course, his wife Letta. Caiphus also found himself working with and composing for a broad range of jazz and pop artists, including Lou Rawls, Nina Simone, and Cannonball Adderley. His facility with both jazz and African forms served him well. His LA stay was also the beginning of an ongoing collaboration with Quincy Jones, the fruits of which can be tasted in Caiphus's African compositions for the scores to Roots (1977) and Spielberg's adaptation of The Color Purple (1985). Streams Today... Rivers Tomorrow is not just a musical masterpiece, it is also the soundtrack to the life of many South Africans. It fuses US-heavy sounds of boogie, disco, and funk with Afrobeat and traditional African elements. Jabu Nkosi handles keyboards on the album, with synths by Caiphus and Craig Harris. Sipho Gumede is on bass and Condry Ziqubu is on guitars. The Afro-Cuban grooves of "Mamase" continues where Listen To The Wind (BEWITH 084LP) left off, another horn-heavy call-and-response ode to a positive life. It's followed by "Aida," with gleeful, dayglow keys and synths on the right side of mid-80s sleaze are accompanied by a killer bassline, slick, skipping drums, and proud horns. The tempo is taken down a few notches for the powerful "Nomalanga" and the lamentations of a heartbroken man who must leave his wife Nomalanga and their children to join the fight against apartheid. Breezy drums and contemplative keys act as a backdrop for the stunning backing vocal harmonies in the intro of "Moshanyana". "Dial Your Number" is an up-tempo English-language boogie-funk workout, complete with mid-song cutaway to a random telephone call. The brilliant "Matswale" was a hit in South Africa in the mid-80s -- it is some damn fine breezy, beautiful, emotional pop. The ferocious "Ndi-Kulindile," with hard-edged, electro-influenced drum patterns and a bouncing, elastic bassline is something of a departure from the album's sound. Mastered by Simon Francis.