MADAMAX is a superb collaboration between veteran artists – Madala Kunene and Swiss guitar supremo Max Lässer. The 1995 collaboration with South African guitarist Madala Kunene and Lungiswa received a lot of rave comments from the press and was compared by many journalists with Ali Faka Toure’s work with Ry Cooder. Madala says: “I first met Max at a studio in Johannesburg in 1995, because of a session that Robert Trunz had organised at at the Downtown Studios in Johannesburg.” Great creative empathy and feeling was shared between exceptional artists for this project. During his stay in Joburg Max had successfully recorded with other South African artists who have added special flavours and extra dimensions to his already distinctive work. With Madala, however, what started off as “a real jam” started “becoming a new thing”. They even recorded their first takes, giving the sound a crisp freshness and playful sophistication. The result ? In Max Lässer’s words “Unique music happened”.
Madala echoes this, “We sat together the whole night. I just took the guitar and played and everybody sang along.” It was not yet obvious something big was going to come of it, “I was not expecting that this music would be released on CD. We were just playing together. We finished the session, and since that day we have been great friends, as if we’d known each other 20 years. I liked his heart – he was a fine man.”
All of the songs on the album were written by both Max and Madala, the words written by Madala Kunene. After their initial sessions in South Africa, Max Lässer had the creative freedom to arrange and produce the work himself and invited Madala to Switzerland to continue adding more arrangements. They added extra keyboards and a brass section to the recordings, overdubbed ‘Impukane’ with bass and drums, and wrote two new songs ‘Gongo’ and ‘Cow Song’. Lungiswa Lulu Plaatjies of Amampondo contributed her haunting vocals and the American lap-steel guitarist David Lindley added his part to ‘Impukane’.
Max on meeting Madala Kunene: ” It was like finding a brother from another culture and part of the world. He really opened my heart to African music and to a different view of playing music than I was used to. He really made me play some of my best yet.” Robert Trunz has described the collaboration as an “epiphany” a “profound connection” between Europe and Africa. It was such an uplifting experience that these two talented artists decided to take their unique collaborative sound on tour in Switzerland. Lungiswa Plaatjies joined them- stunning the crowd with her beautiful rendition of ‘Kumnandi’.
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