By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
You probably know him. Especially If over the years you have attended Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s concerts in Europe, the rest of the African continent or in South Africa. He is the Princess of Africa’s trusted musical director, playing various instruments. He has worked with them all. This includes Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu’s concerts. Lucky Dube’s concerts.
Penny Penny’s concerts…the list goes on and on. He has traversed the continent and the world. Performing. Making music. Sharing art. Learning from other musicians. He has worked in theatre venues and festivals. Playing various musical instruments. The guitar. The harmonica. The piano. You could have been in Lumumbashi in DRC. Maputo in Mozambique or simply at good old Moretele in Pretoria. And witnessed his artistry as a performance artist.
Lolo Rollins has done it all. And by the way, that is not all. He has lived in Asia and South Korea, among other places. In his individual recording projects he has experimented with various languages besides delivering vocals in English and IsiZulu. If you listen carefully to Son of the Soil, his new album, you will hear, besides vocals delivered in English and isiZulu, vocals in Portuguese. His art sum is a totality of his life’s experiences here in his native land and elsewhere in the world, through the travels he has embarked on with various musicians from South Africa as part of their band. Over the years
That is probably the reason why this FUBA graduate calls his music World Music. That is probably why those that have embraced his sound also define it within the framework of the broad genre of World Music. You can imagine what would come out of your own sound If and when you have toured the world to the extent that he has done with these superstars of the world recording and performing various genres of music.
Being enriched by others you encounter artistically and enriching the people you meet and collaborate with in your artistic expression. A new sound influenced by all these experiences is almost always likely to emerge to take centre stage in your own solo career.
That is exactly what has happened to this Pretoria based musician. You can feel that in his new album, aptly titled Son of the Soil. It is a mixture or rather a fusion of all these experiences and his own expression of how he makes sense of it. He puts his finger prints on all these various influences. On this album, creating a resilient sound that will definitelky live for ages.
It is timeless, collectable music for discerning ears. In this album Rollins identifies and defines his own voice. On his own terms. It is distinctly Rollins-ic, and yet the influences are there If you listen more carefully.
Comprising 14 songs, written, sound engineered and produced by him during the height of Covid-19 isolation starting from 2020, in the quietness of his home studio, this album is self-reflective. It goes deep into the artist’s inner soul, inner-self, expressing his own perspective of the world that we have become. We look inward instead of outward.
We find comfort in our own sense of safety and identity. We seem to forget that we are a part of the big puzzle. That is life itself. That is what you get from Son of the Soil. This is Rollins’ third album. Self-reflective, but at the same time reflecting on us all. Our fears.
Our frustration with the current moment. Socially. Politically. And yet our hope for a better future. The human spirit of resilience. These qualities are intrinsically embedded in this album. It is organic. It is the kind of music that you need to listen to in order to be self-reflective about your own life and circumstances. Not because it will make you dance with the movement of your body, but your intellect.
“Actually Son of the Soil is a summary of my other two albums. It is a continuation of what I have done with the previous two albums. And yes, I had to add some melodies, just to cater for those who do not like spending too much time on one thing these days.
But essentially, it is music that is not commercially driven. Music that deals with socio-political economic issues in a different way from my previous works. But when you listen more carefully, those issues are there wearing a mask this time around,” he tells me in an interview at a hotel in Rosebank.
The two albums that Rollins has previously released are Road to Azania, and Maluju.
“Actually recently I have discovered some material from a previous recording that could be an album that I never officially launched, and which I recorded in Newtown some years ago. The music was missing till now. I am actually going through that material to see whether this is material that is still relevant today, that I could still use for an album,” he reveals to me.
Rollins’; work includes theatre, having worked with theatre director Xoli Norman on two theatrical productions both of which were critically acclaimed in the 2000s.
But right now he is focussing his energy on promoting Son of the Soil, and has so far appeared on Morning Live, the leading TV breakfast show on SABC.
“I am actually grateful to Samro (Southern African Music Rights Organisations for having funded this project. I have in fact completed shooting a promotion video called Crazy Times, which we will distribute digitally to promote the new album as a result of that funding,” he says.
But why release a full album during a time when many a musician are happy to release either a Single or an EP. I ask him this question.
“For me it is very simple. Releasing an EP or a Single is not cost effective in the sense that the resources one puts in promoting an EP or a Single are the same as those one puts in releasing a full album. So why not release a full album?” With that it was time to call off the interview.
Watch out for Rollins’ new organic album Son of the Soil on digital platforms as well as the new video titled Crazy Times that he has just completed.