Projecto Africa / N'Dzua
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Projecto Africa
Vidisco Mocambique, 2002 (

Projecto Africa's first chance at global exposure was as part of the Naxos compilation "Mozambique Relief." This was an album put together during the terrible floods that afflicted the country in 2000, the aim being to raise money for the cause, thereby bringing Mozambican music to an international audience in the process. The group of 20-year-old musicians are now back in the limelight, at home at least, with their self-produced debut album.

N'Dzua is an album with a sound that is indisputably Projecto Africa's, but composed of a myriad of influences and styles. The musicianship is first rate. The vocals veer off track on occasion, but this can be readily forgiven with the quality of the rest of the performances. The opening track, "Mufaze," with its catchy guitar hook and confident horns will sound familiar to fans of Mabulu's marrabenta style. "Tirifo" is a bit of an epic, structurally, but once it has established itself the harmonies come to the fore, and what a pleasure that is. After the initial shock of the heavy metal-style guitar has worn off, "Vida Dura" turns out to be a work of very intricate rhythms, rhythms which are the base for a constantly changing melodic structure. Amazingly, the heavy-metal guitar and traditional rhythms of reggae-based "Xicomo" work perfectly - this is the stuff of good times.

What I love about the Projecto Africa sound, and what is so difficult to translate into language, is the way in which the ground is continually shifting, the contours and shape of the music always catching the listener off guard and keeping things exciting. One aspect of the sound that appeals to me, although possibly not to everyone's taste, is the effect of the keyboards - they add a melancholic flavor to everything. The result is that the songs demand to be taken seriously, not to be dismissed as just dance music.

N'Dzua is a record for modern Mozambique, an amalgamation of all the sounds emanating from the stereos of a cosmopolitan city, giving voice to the musical experiences of the youth of that city in a sophisticated, highly literate manner. Wonderful. - Jennifer Byrne

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