Wazimbo & Orchestra Marrabenta de Macombique

Nwahulwana

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Marrabantea, the popular music of Mozambique, is a style which can encompass a lot, and it shows just how much in the first two tracks of this disc. Singer Wazimbo is in glorious form on the starkly simple "Nwahulwana"; it's just voice and guitar, a lovely piece that was used in the soundtrack of the Hollywood movie The Pledge. But from such a beautiful beginning, Wazimbo and Orchestra Star Marrabenta de Mocambique careen into "Parabens," a track that ends up sounding like nothing more than a bad attempt at alternative rock. But all these tracks were recorded (in Harare, Zimbabwe) in 1988, before alternative rock even had a name. It's all marrabenta, and as the rest of the album shows, it can take in a lot, like "Magumba," whose debt to both Memphis soul and South African jit is apparent in the horn arrangements. But it's with "Nhimba Ya Dota" that they hit real pay dirt, with its odd pause beat and its mix of rock (check the guitar solo) and something far beyond and joyous which even involves scat singing. Having found their footing, they generally keep it, although there are a couple of missteps ("Dika" veers perilously close to '70s American AOR). But for most of its length, this kicks back the carpet and makes a dancefloor out of your house, closing with the no-holds-barred "Djomela," where the voices fall over each other in eagerness and the horns are wonderfully wonky. Brilliant stuff.

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