There has been a recent surge in musical output from Mozambique. Mabulu are no small part of this new phase. This is the second album from the band assembled in 1999, Karimbo being their debut. Formed with the help of Roland Hohberg, who established the only private recording studio in the country, Mabulu perform both a musical and didactical role within their home music scene. With Hohberg's support, Mabulu now travel to even the very remote areas of Mozambique, performing for free while simultaneously spreading the message of AIDS awareness.
Some of the tracks on Soul Marrabenta are social commentaries on modern Mozambique, with the emphasis on AIDS, the aftermath of the floods of 2000 and the rebuilding process. Others are about more timeless issues such as love, drinking and dancing. The age make-up of Mabulu's singers contributes to the group's popularity in their home country, with marrabenta veterans Dilon Djindji (73) and Lisboa Matavel (63) appealing to an older audience while the young, rapper Chiquito and the female vocalists bring the music and the message to younger listeners. In addition to traditional Mozambican elements such as marrabenta and timbila, Mabulu's music also bears unmistakable influence of sounds from Zimbabwe and South Africa. Zimbabwean leanings are observed in the sungura style of guitar playing in "Ku Lunga" and jiti rhythms in "Tshunelani", both catchy and danceable songs. There are kwela and mbaqanga rhythms on "Tshina" and "Vanana." The vocals and group harmonies sometimes sound South African, in particular the vocal inflections of the female solo vocalists. Tracks such as "AIDS," "N'Binheto" and "Elisa Mabai" incorporate a fusion of vocal styles, ranging from the traditional to the modern, from the national Mozambican to the international. The Mabulu sound contains a wealth of experiences and histories, which can be best heard on songs featuring either of the older singers, or on one of the rare ballads.
This album is new, a concoction of many sounds that blend together seamlessly. Soul Marrabenta bodes well for the future of Mozambican music. - Jennifer Byrne
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