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Wazimbo & Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mocambique
Piranha (

cd cover Apparently marrabenta has gone to Hollywood. Or so claims the subtitle on this release from one of the best-known voices of Mozambique. The title track, "Nwahulwana," recently appeared on the soundtrack of the Sean Penn movie "The Pledge," but this is a collection of tracks recorded in the famous Shed Studios, Harare, in 1988. Piranha Records is shrewdly jumping on the bandwagon and seizing the perfect opportunity to release the next installment in the recent chain of music from Mozambique.

The title track is undoubtedly a highlight of this album, and quite different from the others in that it features just Wazimbo with simple guitar accompaniment. Haunting, restful and delivered superbly with Wazimbo's trademark throaty vocals, "Nwahulwana" (Night Bird) is a beautiful ballad, surely destined to become a classic. The pace picks up considerably for the remainder of the album, and Wazimbo's vocals are rarely displayed to their full glory as in the opening track.

First impressions are that Nwahulwana is not as highly polished and tightly packaged as its predecessors in this year's spate of releases of Mozambican music. It is raw, extremely energetic and eager (sometimes to the detriment of tuning and arrangements). But these criticisms fade away when the group sing together in harmony, with Wazimbo's unmistakeable vocals leading the way, for example on the track "Parabens" or "Magumba." On occasion he sounds more South African than Mozambican, and sometimes sounds remarkably like Jabu Khanyile. The lead guitar is impressive too in most of the songs, wailing away in competition with a large, brash horn section.

This record is a fine sample of what Mozambique has to offer. Despite having been recorded in 1988 most of the music on this release still sounds fresh. - Jennifer Byrne

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