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The Rough Guide to Marrabenta Mozambique
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The Rough Guide to Marrabenta Mozambique is a relatively broad snapshot of marrabenta music as performed by three generations of the genre's stars. After many years of world music wilderness, Mozambique has managed to rekindle some old flames and to launch some of its emerging music stars onto the international scene, courtesy of some non-governmental organisations and Roland Hohberg, who owns the only private recording studio in the country and was commissioned to record for this release.

It is generally accepted that the term marrabenta refers to "the urban dance rhythms of Maputo and areas around it," and that it is guitar and percussion led. After listening to this CD, consensus on other elements of marrabenta is difficult to reach. What is certain, however, is that the music is dynamic, having evolved from the days when it was very basic, played on instruments made from recycled locally available materials, to include some elements as innovative as rapping.

Apt as can be, the first song, "Maria Teresa," is by 76- year old Dilon Djindji, the oldest recording marrabenta musician. This a classical marrabenta tune with smooth, flowing acoustic guitar and percussion only. Also representing the club of the original marrabenta stars, often referred to as 'the grand old men', are Alberto Mula and Francisco Mahecuane. The Mula's offering, "Anghena Bava Mula," is a mellow and sweet song based on timbila and percussion. Mahecuane's "Rosa" has a distinct guitar-led rhythm and there is little surprise over the mbaqanga influence in the song, because South Africa is where Mahecuane started his musical career. Antonio Marcos, a veteran of the 1960's and 70's music scene, performs a very infectious, danceable song with steady rhythm and catchy vocals. The guitar work is imposing and bears a trademark of chimurenga music from Zimbabwe, although that is where the similarity ends. Another old-timer of the 1960's, Lisboa Matavel, gives an authentic representation of an original marrabenta song.

Also present on this CD, inevitably, is one of Mozambique's most successful musicians, Wazimbo. Although the instrumentation on "Xigevengu" is not as impressive as his other recordings with Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mocambique, he makes up for it with striking vocals. Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mocambique themselves appear on two occasions, featuring Guimaraes and then Mingas. The track with Guimaraes, "Matilde," is the more appealing sound, full with guitars, horns and percussion and some enchanting vocals; there is also some soukous influence in the song. The recently reformed Eyuphuro make their mark with "Othiawene," a gentle song about lost love, with Zena Bacar's compelling, soulful voice.

Mabulu represent the old and the new generation both in the composition of the group and in the style of their song "Mahanhela" (Modern Life), which encompasses traditional singing and rap. Nene is the youngest artist on the CD and her song sounds like a typical marrabenta tune.

This CD is generally good listening and offers appropriate initiation into Mozambican music. There are definitely one or two tracks that bring down the overall standard.

Nonetheless, this record successfully brings together, in a coherent manner, a style of music that has, until now, remained under-represented. This is an indispensable addition to any serious world music record collection. - Jennifer Byrne

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