I could find nothing on YouTube of Tony Bird doing anything but "Mango Time" although the incredible "Rift Valley" and my personal favorite "She Came From The Karoo" are better to the ear. Maybe someone else will have more luck.
Sorry Africa, Tony Bird, Rounder Records, 1990
Blues and rural folk music, historically important on the American music scene, have always been in debt, acknowledged or not, to the sounds of Africa. Without getting into a treatise here on that subject if one is interested in the blues then it should be one's business as it was for a poet like Langston Hughes, for example, to dig into the African roots. The same quest, obviously, needs to be taken for those in who live in an increasing urbanized Africa today. Tony Bird, the artist under review here, is a man of Africa and takes that identity seriously. Moreover he is a white man of Africa. And to top that off he is a white man, one of the few unfortunately when it counted, who stood up against colonialism, neo-colonialism, white racism and apartheid. Hats off.
Somehow, someway Tony Bird through that experience has incorporated the language, the sound and, most importantly, the spirit of Africa in his music. That feat is put on display front and center in this nicely done, although all too short, CD that shows that he has assimilated those traditions. Starting from the lushly poetic, upbeat "Rift Valley" through to his signature jump tune "Mango Time" through the politically-driven title track "Sorry Africa" his sense of his African homeland shines through. He is not as successful when he slows down the beat and gets caught up with trying to deliver a message on a track like "Athlone Place" but that is merely a minor flaw in this well-produced CD by Rounder Records. By the way, Tony, for your efforts against colonialism and white racism there is no need to say sorry. The new Africa that is struggling, painfully, fitfully and with reverses to be `aborning' should recognize that.
Note: I first heard Tony Bird many years ago on an old vinyl record album entitled "Tony Bird" where I was mesmerized by his "Rift Valley" and more so by "She Came From The Karoo". The reason that I am reviewing this 1990 CD is that I recently attended a Tony Bird concert where he did a few of the songs from that old album. I make the same comment about that performance as I do about this CD. He does his Africa-centered songs as lustily and with the verve of twenty years ago, and still is as mesmerizing. His `message' songs, none of them included here, are more uneven. "New Jerusalem' is very powerful (if a little long) concerning the need for some kind of just settlement to the Palestinian question. However, "Mr. Meanie" a parable about the Bush years, "Aint't Nobody's Business Who You Love" about the varieties of possibilities inherent in the love experience and "Well Done, America", his Africa tribute to the election of Barack Obama as the first black American president were less so. Still, if you get a chance, he is well worth seeing when he hits his stride.