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Maiuko
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Maiuko
Different Wars
RL-2 (www.rl-2.com)

Born in Mozambique of royal Swazi ancestry, with comparisons to the likes of Macy Gray to her credit, Maiuko is a singer representing another facet of the musical life of her country. Now based in the UK, Different Wars is her debut: a collage of images with soulful grooves, African choruses, and slick, modern backing tracks, all melting together in one lush, urban soundscape. Maiuko oozes soul. She has the ability to transform her vocals from husky and sensuous to something altogether more ethereal, almost spiritual. Her voice belies her youth, and defies the limitations of one particular style or genre.

The climax of the album is "Hold My Hand." A sultry Maiuko establishes the melody over a mellow, funky groove, when, as if from the heavens, enters the unmistakeable voice of Sara Tavares. Tavares' youthfulness balances the ghostly harmonies and Maiuko's vocal maturity. This is a truly beautiful song, with the very different styles of the women resulting in something truly haunting. "Sweet Black Mama" is a thought evoking track about the universal plight of a woman's struggle to survive. It is the richness of musical content that is most striking. The track does not try to be sympathetic to its subject matter in any way; rather it emphasises the harshness of the reality, with stabbing violin and powerful harmonies. What begins life as a chill-out track becomes something darker and truly monumental in its breadth.

One of the few overt nods to her Mozambican heritage comes in the form of "Mozambique," a free spirited track with the refrain sung in the Landin dialect of southern Mozambique. "My Oh My" is an incredibly sexy track, the purest example of Maiuko's gift. Songs like this are her strength. Her interpretation is spot on, bluesy and soulful, creaming the essence from the very core of the melody. This is one for the late night music lovers.

Different Wars is a slow grower, mainly due to the weight of its substance - there is an ocean of sound to take in. It is an album to come back to again and again, each listen revealing new corners, hidden depths. Persevere, abandon any preconceptions of what you think African music should sound like, and you will be rewarded. - Jennifer Byrne


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