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"Graceful" Reviews  


What makes the contemporary music scene so exciting outside the corporate bottom-line (lack of musical) philosophy is that extraordinary freshness can be drawn from diverse genres that on the surface may sound either old-hat or conversely alien to conventional western music-making. The naysayers might contend that true originality might seem to be lost in a great big musical pastiche-fest. Well I beg to differ.

The Hottentots are a duo, Carl Cleves who sings and plays guitar and Parissa Bouas who also sings and plays various percussion instruments. They are based in Byron Bay and make frequent appearances at the various folk festival around the country. If they could be said to have a base style it stems from the Gaelic / Irish axis which connects us all to our history, whether you like it or not. But it doesn't end there. In fact it's just the beginning as essential Australianness is put through a variegated multi-cultural blender hat demonstrates how all music can be honestly linked if treated sympathetically.

The opener to their new CD, the aptly titled "Graceful" is a very good indication of the Hottentot's modus operandi, acoustic guitar and flute that could be Northern Brazil, laidback African beat, Martin Tucker's kora flourishes that expertly and musically demonstrate the spritiual links between West Africa and Ireland, Andrew Sisters section with downtown bluesy harmonica and Martin Tucker again, this time giving the number a zydeco tang with a melodica. Yet the whole thing sounds strangely Australian without sounding silly.

What makes the Hottentots truly outstanding is that they have fashioned 15 strong melodies (yes, folks that alien concept that distinguishes cogent commentary from empty rhetoric) that generously accommodate calypso, country, Irish folk, Madagascan music as the wonderful instrumental Welcome Home demonstrates, Zimbabwean mbira colours, Latino Afro-Beat, rap or Brazilian forro. In fact I refer the reader to the gypsy / jewish intro to Zefinha, brillianrly emoted by Parissa before turning into a scorch the paint of the wall forro with wailing melodica and compulsive rhythm.

The lyrics are something else again dealing with issues of loss, homecoming, mischievous dogs, the oppression of the little man (us) or love in a beguiling, natural manner, be it with Carl's warm, cheekily rustic tones or Parissa's superbly dulcet ones. The contributions of the well-chosen accompanying musicians can hardly be underestimated either, whether it's the sublime insouciance of jazz virtuoso John Hoffman's flugelhorn on Back in Byron Bay or the Celtic beauty of Cleis Pearce's violin on the haunting ballad Little Fox. Diverse Graceful may be, but the fact that it is the work of the one entity is never in doubt as the CD closes with Mabo, a sprightly and genuinely exciting reggae number with some scorching brass and sax work from ace Brazilian band Skank.

If there's any musical justice Graceful will be voted the Australian World Record of the year in any opinion poll you may care to name. Unreservedly recommended.

Richard Jasiutowitcz Diaspora World Beat magazine #8 Spring 2001


The Hottentots is essentially the collaborative work of Sydney singer/songwriters Parissa Bouas and Carl Cleves, and their unique brand of contemporary folk/world music has been the feature of numerous international music festivals. 'Graceful' is their third offering and showcases the duo along with Martin Tucker on kora, bolon and melodica; Cleis Pierce on violin; Matt Doyle on didgeridoo; and John hoffman on trumpet. In the words of Kavisha Mazzella, "it honours a long history of their adventures and travels with the tantalising musical threads of Brazil, Africa and Cuba and at the same time it has a very Australian feel."

A six-eight 'world music' feel pushes the on-switch of 'Graceful' with some exceptionally tasteful musical textures. The exciting kora and melodica playing of Martin Tucker a highlight, as well as the vocal soundscape that comprises Carl Cleves, Parissa Bouas and Peter Haddock. With title track Graceful things hot up - Martin Tucker performing some mbira magic in accompaniment to an emotive vocal by Parissa Bouas. Zefinha then introduces a north eastern Brazilian forro classic to the album. Song craft on this CD is exceptional, performances grand, and production first-rate. A fantastic album!

Adrain Pertout - Australian Musician magazine, Winter 2001