“My music is travelling music for the soul,” smiles the legendary Tony Cox (pictured) when explaining why he called his latest album Padkos.
“People have listened to my music on top of mountains, in deserts, across oceans.”
The album is a series of covers of South African classics as well as new, original compositions.
“When some people have heard these songs live, they have approached me in tears. The instrumental versions affect people on a deep and emotional level,” he says.
While travelling from the fantastically luxurious Last Word Boutique Hotel in Constantia to Hout Bay, I listened to the album and it certainly affected me on a deeply emotional level.
The breathtaking beauty of the journey combined with songs like Edi Niederlander’s classic Ancient Dust of Africa, Hugh Masekela’s Bring Back Nelson Mandela and Bright Blue’s Weeping was overwhelming.
These songs resonate in the history of South Africa. The memories and feelings of the times they were written in and what they meant to South Africans on a personal and national level is poignant. Added to that, Cox is known for playing pensive, melancholic music like no other acoustic guitarist and it is an emotional rollercoaster.
But he also knows how play to joy, and songs like Burnout, Swinging Safari/Sarie Marais and PJ Power’s anthemic Jabulani are great fun.
Bright Blue’s Weeping begins a tad slowly but then evolves into perfect sense when he melds the main guitar line with Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika – which Bright Blue had hidden in the original song. One of his original songs is Long Walk to Nkandla, which Cox explains was inspired by the fact that “it’s been a long walk from Nelson Mandela’s freedom to Nkandla”.
“This is the first time I have recorded covers,” he says. “I wanted each song to mean something to me and the country, songs that have been woven into our collective consciousness.”
Perhaps the most challenging song on the album is Johnny Clegg’s Impi, as the song is so vocally and drums-driven. But Cox is satisfied with the outcome. “The tune had to have the same drive,” he says. “Victor Masondo plays bass and he is a great Zulu bassist. In terms of choosing the songs, I would think of a classic, listen to it and experiment to see if it worked instrumentally.”
“The album is very stripped-down. My producer, Joe Arthur, sampled the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Weeping – otherwise it’s just percussion, bass and acoustic guitar.”
He describes the title track, Padkos, as having a maskandi vibe. “It’s very fast and very African.”
He has toured the music from Knysna to Bloemfontein and Joburg and is planning to take it to Durban. The show starts at Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf from tomorrow night and runs until June 1.
He will be selling CDs at the show. But fans can also purchase the CDs directly from tonycox.co.za, iTunes and bandcamp.com.
Taking historically important songs, Cox has, inadvertently, made a historically important album.