Kumalo's roots are in a musical family of Soweto, and he was destined to be a musician long before Paul Simon's expedition to South Africa. But it was Simon's Graceland album that gave the world at large a chance to hear his remarkable fretless bass guitar work in a series of sessions that guaranteed him a shot of his own.
After Graceland brought him to New York, Kumalo became one of the more in-demand session players for the growing number of American artists looking for an "African" sound. San Bonan is his first solo endeavor, and he wisely has tried to create a genuinely original sound for himself, one that fuses his South African roots with pan-African rhythms, R&B licks, Caribbean melodies, and jazz grooves. He has assembled a formidable band for these sessions.
His wife, Robbi Hall Kumalo, offers some great vocals, and "names" include South African pennywhistler Morris Goldberg, percussionists Don Alias and Marc Quinones, guitarist Steve Khan, and keyboardist Mike Landy. Kumalo plays a number of instruments and sings lead in a husky South African style in a few spots, but it is his bass playing that informs the sound of the music and inspires the songs (most penned by the artist).
He stretches the instrument to the limit in his tribute to Jaco Pastorius, a duet with percussionist Alias that shows the breadth of his talents as well as exposes his deep roots. Latin and jazz fans will find as much to listen to here as "world music" fans. --Louis Gibson