Ephat Mujuru
Ephat Mujuru
Dumisani Maraire and Ephat Mujuru, two Zimbabwean mbira masters have returned to the roots of traditional music making with the release of Shona Spirit (Music of the World). On the album, the artists shun technological gizmos and opt instead for a simple set-up; two mbira and their voices. The outcome is dazzling duets and spontaneous solo pieces often heard in the Zimbabwe's countryside during spirit possession ceremonies. The soft glowing music lifts the listener from the drab here and now to a far away mythical place where every sound is musical and harmony exist in nature. Whatever your musical taste, this album will move you in mysterious ways.
(Editor's note: You can read more about
Ephat Mujuru in an interview with Banning Eyre)

Meanwhile, Samba Mapangala and Orchestra Virunga, the expatriate Zairean band that exploded on the eastern coast of Africa in the 1980s with unique blend of Kenyan Benga and Zairean soukous, have released a new album titled Vunja Mifupa (Festival). In attempting to get the right sound, Mapangala fires all the big guns in soukous: Diblo Dibala (lead guitar), Syran Mbenza (lead guitar), Ngouma Lokito (bass), Bopol Mansiamina (rhythm guitar), Nyboma Mwandido (vocals) and the list goes on. However, while the album generates a great dance ambiance, it lacks the distinctiveness that catapulted Virunga onto the international stage with the release of "Feet on Fire" in the early 1990s.

Sure, the guitars are strong, and Mapangala's magic vocal is complemented by a full-throated chorus of singers. But, except for the title track, Vunja Mifupa, the album veers irretrievably toward the ubiquitous soukous sound. That more than anything, makes this just another drop in a world drowning in soukous siren.

Yet, it's premature to dismiss soukous as yesterday's music, especially considering Ballou Canta's Rencontre (Hibiscus). Originally from the Republic of Congo, Canta who lives in Paris, has worked with soukous stars like Kofi Olomide and Sam Mangwana. In Rencontre, Canta introduces Zouk element into the music. Though sung in Lingala, the Caribbean connection enables this album to sound and feel different from other soukous albums. The guitars are relaxed, the drums are taut and Canta's voice roams freely to explore salient point of the music. The track "Losambo" is especially unique because the arrangement combines the gospel chorus of Southern USA, a keenly tuned West African 21-stringed kora and heavy R&B bass. There is a sense of a great carnival happening, joy exploding into the streets. The result is pure fun.

Amon Cover
Meanwhile, Zekuhl, a cool four-piece outfit from Montreal, Quebec, has insinuated Cameroun's Makossa/Bikutsi sound into Quebec's folk music scene with its latest release, Amon (Bros). The album establishes the abundant song-writing skills of lead guitarist Manu Njock. Written in French and in one of the Camerounian tongues, this album brims with life. On such tracks as "Dans la nuit de jeudi", "L'Appel du n'kuu", and "Amon ti me man", a strong hint of Haiti's famous rara sound is thrown in for good measure. The outcome is rippling guitar, pulsating drums and melodious call-and-response vocals.

AfroDisc Top Ten Discs of The Month
Compiled by Opiyo Oloya

1. Thionne Seck (1997). DAALY. Stern's Records
2. *Zekuhl (1997). AMON. Le Disques Bros
3. Maraire & Mujuru (1997). SHONA SPIRIT. Music of the World
4. Tarika (1997). SON EGAL. Xenophile
5. *Tarig Abubakar & AfroNubians (1997). HOBEY LAIK. Festival Records
6. Ballou Canta (1997). RECONTRE. Hibiscus Records
7. Various Artists (1997). HOLDING UP HALF THE SKY: THE VOICES OF AFRICAN WOMEN. Shanachie Records
8. Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga (1997). VUNJA MIFUPA. Festival Records
9. Various Artists (1997). THE SOUL OF CAPE VERDE. Tinder Production
10. Yande Codou Sene (1997). NIGHT SKY IN SINE SALOUM. Shanachie Records

The previous edition of Afrodisc is available

Opiyo Oloya is the host of the radio program Karibuni on CIUT 89.5 FM Radio, Toronto. The show airs on Saturday 4:00 PM- 5:00 PM.
E-Mail: Stvincen@inforamp.net

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