Review

Benjamin Jephta’s album Born Coloured, not Born-Free is a powerful journey that unifies the black South African experience

Recorded at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music (Boston, USA, where he completed his Master’s in jazz) and released on his own label, Akoustik Elektrik, award-winning bassist and composer Benjamin Jephta’s 6-track album Born Coloured, not Born-Free is a reflection on his identity.

Jephta puts his lived experiences of growing up in Mitchell’s Plein to music in compositions that question coloured identity, the coloured mentality, and the coloured-black relationship. At their core, the compositions provoke uncomfortable questions, while simultaneously carrying a positive energy that speaks to transformation. 

Opener “An Incomplete Transition” sets an eerie tone with a piano-led theme that accompanies a sample recording of a speech that cuts straight to the chase: “Racism is a deep disease in our socio-political fabric.” Jephta performs a stunning octave solo to a hip hop groove before every band member proves why they’re album personnel. 

“The Ben-Dlamini Stomp” creates a hypnotic dance-around-the-fire energy that continues to heat up into a chest-beating crescendo that moves forward and never looks back. “Gadija Pt.1” is an homage to the matriarch of the family, Jeptha’s Ouma, with a standout saxophone solo that resonates with a powerful appreciation. In a seamless transition, “Gadija Pt.2” picks up where part one drops off and paints Ouma the picture of resilience. 

Jephta’s church chops come to the fore in the album’s final two compositions, both of which seem to capture an energy of choir-led worship. As the titles suggest, the songs speak to acceptance and metamorphosis, and resurgence, respectively. 

Jephta’s careful selection of expert musicians – Tyson Jackson (drums), Noe Zagroun (piano), Tareq Rantisi (percussion), Alonzo Demetrius (trumpet), Nery Zidon (alto saxophone), Stephen Byth (tenor sax) – culminates in a hopeful contemporary South African jazz album that blatantly opposes the 1950’s Population Registration Act. 

Feature pic supplied by artist