Koonyum Sun is the new album from Xavier Rudd and Izintaba. It is the 6th studio album for Xavier Rudd. However, on this album he collaborated with the South African bassist Tio Moloantoa and the drummer Andile Nqubezelo (of the Lucky Dube’s band). This is the trio that comprises Xavier Rudd and Izintaba.
Xavier is known for fusing various musical genres, often from different regions of the world. The music of Xavier Rudd and Izintaba is no deviation from this; it is an amalgam of western pop/rock, Caribbean, African and Aboriginal influences (it should be noted that Xavier hails from Australia). The album commences with Sky To Ground, a wonderful song that is also a proper synopsis of the album’s general feel. It is a song that simultaneously has an African, reggae, as well as a singer/songwriter feel to it. It features the wonderful addition of backup male African vocalists, that truly add wonderful & worldly warmth. Another excellent example of their uncanny ability to genre-mesh is Badimo, which starts off with aboriginal singing (this author believes) before energetic didgeridoos take up a vague beat as drums and acoustic guitar leisurely emerge with a genially shuffling beat before Xavier’s sanguinely calm voice surfaces.
For the most part reggae and pop/rock seem to the foundational influences of Koonyum Sun, with other genres then layered upon subsequently. Xavier Rudd and Izintaba have an uncanny ability to create foundational beats that are essentially funk’ified reggae. Fresh Green Freedom, Yandi, and Bleed are probably the finest three songs that epitomize their style of revamped reggae, and while they certainly contain similarities their still exists a distinct approach to each. Fresh Green Freedom employs a western pop/rock infusion with subtle African undertones, Yandicontains a kind of skipping-blues feel, while Bleed has more of a subdued psychedelic-rock air to it. Every one is composed masterly.
On this album Xavier projects a voice that sounds reassuring and calming, but is not calm in and of itself – as he can be quite emotive. His voice can sound undersized yet wise, drawing you in and conveying an “in-the-room” feel to one’s ears. Or at times his voice can be echoing and grandly discerning. His voice, like the music overall, is very much like that of Paul Simon’s (specifically from his Graceland album) in the vocal pace pleasantly falls somewhere between talking and all out singing, plus at times there are a multitude of deep philosophical observations – that don’t make direct and traditional sense, yet remain wildly entertaining.
This singing style is probably best exemplified on the song Set Me Free, an exceptional song with a quick beat and what seems like African undertones. It sounds almost out of the 80’s, with an almost Talking Heads-like interaction between the swift beat and more drawn out, animated vocals.
Koonyum Sun is a superb album that deftly combines assorted genres not commonly mixed, in such a skillful manner that it is accessible to those who might not regularly enjoy any of those genres on their own. The accessibility though is a product of the musicianship and effortless vibe inherent within each song, not through simpleminded songwriting. The album is also genuinely positive in its message and overall tone. Similar to the approaching & anticipated summer season; it is warm, relaxed, and communicates great potential – one doesn’t want to miss out on it.
By Sean Brna