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"A Small World" Reviews
   

 

Hottentot Party come from the north coast of NSW, one of the most musically fertile areas of Australia outside metropolitan regions, Their poppy, cross-cultural music and vibrant live performances have landed them high on the bills of all the major Australian folk festivals in recent years. A Small World is one of the most accomplished Australian albums from a 'festival circuit' band that I've come across.

Cleves parallels The Hottentots' music with the Hottentot people of south-west Africa, whose culture ceased to exist in its own right after invasions of neighbouring tribes, icluding whites from the south, but whose heritage lives on in the many other peoples who now live in the area. He describes his 'folk music' as a cross-cultural mosaic coming from Belgian radio stations in the 1960s when he was growing up. He adds that this music does not come from any particular culture but is the voice of all people of all ages and races. This quality makes it particularly appropriate for such an ethnically diverse country as Australia, and the music is unselfconsciously multi-cultural. Using ska, South African, West African and Brazilian styles, they create a sweet, very danceable sound with bass, drums and keyboards with sax or trumpet behind Cleves' guitar, through which Bouas' exuberant and sexy voice moves like a force of nature. The confidence with which they use these styles comes from extensive musical experience in their countries of origin.

The original songs are a diverse bunch often reflecting 'alternative' values. The ska-ish Intention is the Point of the Arrow takes off from Zen and the Art of Archery and Sharpening a Knife is a sparse, elegant setting of a contemporary Japanese poem by Nanao Sakaki. The earthier side of life gets a look in the bouncy love song A Long Way. Down that Track and Penkele are about imprisonment in and exile from South Africa, and The Glorious Wind could fit any one of a dozen liberation movements of the twentieth century. Other songs include the festive samba Cravo e Canela by Brazilian composer Milton Nascimento, and Hey Maria, a 1960s samba about the problems of love in an extended family - they rework into a hot batucada.

With such a fine cast of supporting musicians (of which drummer Rick Cole and bass player Maurice Cernigoi are perhaps the most outstanding), the temptation to use them on everything is overwhelming. For my money, they could more often have leavened the strong dance beat - for example, on African Sunset we only get a few bars of the melodic South African acoustic guitar style before the band piles in. But if you want a record to get you moving and keep you there you won't be disappointed.

Arrangements and production are razor-sharp, and it's gratifying to see that the album, first released independently in 1994 (when it won a North Coast dolphin Award for Best Album), has been picked up by One World Music and should now be available through your local record shop. Definitely a five-star production.

Simon Kravis - Monaro Musings

   

When I praised Graceful by The Hottentots I had no idea that their recorded history stretched back that far. A Small World was released in 1994 and reveals that this duo consisting of singer/percussionist Parissa Bouas and Belgian born singer/guitarist Carl Cleves was already well under way with the kaleidoscopic cultural influences that inform their immensely appealing music today.

The Hottentots were presumably known as Hottentot Party at the time, a pretty good moniker if you consider the music on A Small World. Trying to determine what makes this duo so special probably boils down to emotional honesty, genuine talent and hard work. And that honesty revels in the fact that they sound Australian with a rustic Anglo/Irish undertow even as they shift their musical shapes to include Bulgarian harmonies, funky sax and organ, gypsy violin, African and Latin rhythms, reggae, electronic exploration, jazz or Brazilian colours.

In this latter connection I should refer to the superb version of Milton Nascimento's 'Cravo e Canela' with its hypnotic beats and soaring soprano sax. And while we are on a Brazilian trip the boiling samba beats of the English languaged 'Hey Maria' could have come from the hottest Batucada in Rio. Indeed the closer 'Penkele' is a powerful piece of Afro-funk that features a 30 piece Afro-Brazilian choir. On A Small World you can jump to ska or to Eastern European harmonies, get all zoukish or examine West African palm wine music through an antipodean lens.

It doesn't matter, because it's all great fun. What is even more impressive is that in a work that positively bubbles with so many dance-friendly flavours The Hottentots manage to sound folksily themselves.

Richard Jasiutowics - Diaspora World Beat magazine Spring 2002