Blues Rag Review!
IF YOU hadn’t yet heard, you certainly will now: Backcountry Mozambique is a virtual goldmine of groove, where music with a naturally inherent fizz has been waiting, patiently, to be dug by worldwide audiences. And Wired for Sound—in the grand tradition of the great Hugh Tracey’s sonic safaris throughout these parts in the 1940s and ‘50s—is newly prospecting its way across the land with an inquisitive microphone. As we speak, Simon Attwell (South African fusionists, Freshlyground), Kim Winter (radio producer) and Julio Sigauque (Freshlyground) continue roving about the continent in search of startup singers and musicians who, in turn, are in search of broader outlets, brighter horizons. Mozambique is Wired’s pilot project, the spectacular first in a highly anticipated series of kaleidoscopic views of southern Africa.
Running off of a solar panel, their portable studio ventures into the real nitty-gritty, overcoming hardships typically imposed by accessing artists remotely tucked away. This way the studio came straight to the abandoned building inside of which honey-throated Marcelino bivouacked. And onto the dirt plot pounded flat by happy feet dancing to the angelic Mbonje Evangelical choir. Yet for being field recordings taped under take-what-you-get bush conditions, all 17 tracks emit a Technicolor brilliance. Certainly the underlying crystalline fidelity is key, never snitching that microphones were set up in mango forests, in barren rooms in deserted structures in barren villages, and on (literally) elephant-trampled riverbeds. But the bulk of credit goes to the production decision to fortify the participants’ raw dignity with varying degrees of layered tweaking. A tinge of Attwell’s keys can be swabbed in, or some of Sigauque’s fingerpicked acoustic clouds or a sliver of Albert Frost’s bottleneck shiver. Listen how the stiff, metallic strum of Alfredo’s pankwé (a homemade zither engorged on steroids) opens up with almost symphonic breath by simply rolling in a contoured bassline. Or just how easily mystique is created by juxtaposing a lithe trumpet line against Liquissone Nhamataira’s bubbling harp. More lush, more expansive are the horn-stoked treatments which explode behind Harry Potter (easier said than Genitomolava Molava).
Many more local heroes are met along the way. Like Atija, whose atmospheric approach casts an aura as beguilingly soft as the hip-hop rhymes of high-schoolers Mdy-k and Flay C’s hit hard. And as sure as Mateus Mapinhane Charles’ “Mazano” will energetically effervesce its way into being your new favorite dance song, Million Isaac Junior instantly becomes your personal sunshine superman, capable of buoying away burdens with the helium-like properties of his joyfully weightless voice. Just don’t dare leave without experiencing the John Issa Band, just as ready to pounce out from your speakers as off their CD covershot. Although their over-electrified “guitars” would never pass Leo or Les’ quality control, both Fender and Paul would thoroughly revel in the gloriously rebellious racket made by suturing together scraps of wood, bicycle brake cables and pot lids into the ultimate DIY axes. The project’s five-minute promo video (wiredforsound.co.za or YouTube) is a must-see, if not for providing the missing visual context behind these golden sounds at hand, then to offer a panoramic overlook of the noble grandeur in Wired for Sound’s ongoing mission.
Review by Dennis Rozanski