I don’t quite know what the guitars those three street-level gents are playing on the cover shot to Moçambique are, but they’re tripped out and indicative of what the listener is in for: an anthology disc capturing an array of ground-level Mozambique sounds taking the region’s traditional folk musics into today and tomorrow, not to mention preparing it all for export to a world more than ready for such work. The disc opens with Million Isaac Junior’s fetchingly mellifluous Thikulola blending Joseph Shabalala type vocals and rhythms with a ghostly slide guitar taking the happy atmosphere around the corner to meet with its forebears from the Great Beyond. Then, two songs later, the mononymic Alfredo starts Musia do Cantino with a brief but complex speedy guitar riff (courtesy Derek Gripper) before falling into a serial minimal groove, Alredo singing and playing pankwe (an unusual double-gourd zithery/dulcimerish instrument).
The band strikes up behind him and gets into a kind of jig tempo adding a couple of extra dimensions to the song. Everything here and throughout the disc is highly infectious. Western corollaries are just a trifle hard to point to, but if you’re the kind of listener who digs Cat Stevens, Guggenheim Trio, John Martyn, Duncan Browne, and so on, as well as the African rhythms the West is getting increasingly familiar with, then this CD is right up your alley. Chaisoni Bicaus Bandeira delivers a mesmerizing sprechestime / singing combination that pulls the listener into an envigored hypnotic state, and I dug the hell out of the rough quasi-falsetto refrain in Academico and Pimento’s Marry Very Well.
The baseline behind all this lies in a unique venture, the brainchild of three artistically integrative young innovators who created a small solar-powered recording studio capable of being carried into literally any region of the country and easily set up, ready to document musicians wherever they can be found. The result is surprisingly well finished where one might otherwise expect the flaws and glitches native to the older norms of field recordings. In college, I took an Ethnomusicology class, and the teacher—Ron Riddle, a writer for Downbeat—did not see eye to eye with me, we didn’t get along very well at all, but he woulda made me his protégé had I presented him with this kind of product as a capstone project, trust me.
Moçambique is indeed that good, a singular bang-up job for which Mssrs. Simon Attwell, Kim Winter, & Julio Siguaque should be well lauded, a canny trio of cats providing not only a valuable service but in the process of lavishing irresistible musics on the rest of the globe, material that would likely otherwise never have escaped its territorial confines, and that would be on the order of an aesthetic crime. Think of this as a kind of latterday WOMAD gig.
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker