The NBT Review 129

older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

Forgiving Wind – Jaspar Lepak

(Reviewed by Helge Janssen)

What is so powerful about Jaspar is that she has a gift for honing in on those sensitive and often negated emotions that a brash life continues to trash – to render unimportant – and turns them the right way round replacing them in our consciousness, giving them the stature and value that they deserve. As such Jaspar does not complain about the old order of things – she simply rearranges it and presents us with the innovative result! I find this heroic, and revolutionary.

This is the fascinating essence of Jaspar Lepak.

As such Jaspar is refocusing Country and Western/Folk music in an updated, modern context…..while never losing sight its roots. From the deepest heart of her experience her understanding of human emotion spills into the spread of the collective unconscious of our time. A particular example of this aspect of Jaspar’s focus:

“Plain as you”

A word that brings the heart to light
Is worth the dark and sleepless nights
And the melody that frees the shame
Is worth the journey through the pain

These words ring a resonance with a deep reverence and respect for life’s seemingly insignificant gems that are hard won, that heal, that nurture.

Jaspar’s musical arrangements and compositions are hauntingly beautiful and mesmerizingly melodic, never overstated, always stripped to an essence and diligently refined. I say this having experienced the vast array of varying perspectives of her compositions in a ‘live’ context (Phansi Museum, Bluestockings, St. Clements, Eagles View) and then being rewarded with the distillation as represented on “Forgiving Wind” Jaspar’s 5th CD release. It has been an honour to have witnessed this creative process at first hand, in real time, here in Durban South Africa with an artist of the stature of Jaspar Lepak.

No virtual reality this.

“Nothing to Dream”

….dreams die slow
and you don’t even know
how you let them fall
so far behind…..

We have all experienced this process in our waking moments as we slowly forget the previous night’s dream: here, applied to the sense of loss at not living one’s dream in life, becomes a statement of profound proportions. And yet, while this happens so slowly, reflectively it seems to have happened in a flash. To me, this song has the effect of heightening the sense of ‘now’, creating urgency about living in the present. There is also a warning of what it is like to not live consciously and have the courage to take life-affirming risks. Sean Ross’ bass line ties this song together most cleverly.

My current favourite is undoubtedly “Hollow Part”. The ‘walk’ and melody of the acoustic guitar leading an intertwining of the banjo (Bryan Eaton) and the mandolin (Richard Haslop) is inspired, and I love the accordion cord changes in particular (Kale Lepak) and the way it swells, comes to the fore, then gently recedes into the background once more, colouring the subdued moments for Jaspar’s lucid voice to have implosive impact. The drifting echoing ending is wistful and perfect….

“I Know a Woman” deals essentially with the mismatch of paternalism and of its expectations and abuse, bringing to the fore the feminine courage and fortitude needed to harness this negative energy. Paternalism is a global area of concern in desperate need of redress: it is often at the core of offensive, impulsive behaviour and violence. Jaspar points out just how infantile paternalism can be:

“They tell us our sadness is private depression
But a mother’s submission is centuries old….”

As such Jaspar does not seek blame, but rather places her insight within an ‘intuitive contrast’ where the truth of a situation hits you unambiguously. By balancing misinformed fact with historical truth she does not perpetuate the violence: she dissolves it! She is not fighting fire with fire, but with water, with sand, with a blanket, with carbon dioxide: with knowledge!

This ‘seeing’ of Jaspar’s brings a transformative recognition to the unfair hand of women being subjected to this matrix of pervasive assumptions that have contrived to spread from generation to generation – and how women themselves have unwittingly been party to this propagation. It is no wonder then that women have (as a form of defence?) become ‘unfathomable’ to most men. This is a song of epic proportions and is the gender-based (as opposed to indigent-based) version of ‘Streets of London’ where Jaspar takes us by the hand and leads us through the chambers of the female heart: be it daughter to mother, woman to wo/men, woman to way of the world, or the world to the Goddess – while startling us with alerting facts!

“People won’t like you” with Rowan Stuart on slide/lead guitar, is a bluesy driving plait of guitars and a marvellous example of letting go, of trusting in the power of one’s inner voice and joyously cutting loose from expectations that hold one back. There is some ingenious perception done with incisive imagery:

“Well go ahead mister, go drown in your whisky,
The religion of a sinner needs a saint nailed to the wall.
Well I ain’t so perfect and this feeling bad ain’t worth it
I’m taking myself down and I’m walking out the door…..”

The myriad slants of the inner dialogue of self-doubt instigated by a lack of resonance from a partner are turned inside out and then underlined with a flip of two words – by replacing ‘won’t’ with ‘will’ and ‘wrong’ with ‘right’ in the final chorus line title of this song! Sheer brilliance!

Every track on “Forgiving Wind” is a winner and is a marvelous contribution to the world of thoughtful reflection as antidote to the pollution we evidence coming from the mindless music output that feeds mass immobility. The album bristles with wit and courage wrapped in a coating of lyricism and musicianship: a palatable and formidable combination. It also comes as a huge boon to the music scene in Durban where the talents of Durban based musicians – Bryan Eaton, Sean Ross, Nibs van der Spuy, Richard Haslop, Shawn Lovell, Rowan Stuart, Brent Quinton – have been put to excellent use.

Photographs of Jaspar in the Drakensburg Mountains were taken by Kale Lepak. Illustration and Art Design is by Amelia of The CD was recorded and mixed by Brent Quinton at the Boiler Room in Durban and mastered by Greg Reierson at Rare Form Mastering in Mpls. MN.

Nothing lost, everything gained.

A beautiful Christmas gift awaits a deserving you and/or a worthy friend!

Ps: Jaspar has a degree in Literature and Song Writing and studied piano from age six.

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