Mabulu

Soul Marrabenta

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The sophomore effort from Mozambique's Mabulu is even more cohesive than their debut, Karimbo. A lot of playing together had welded them as a unit, and though their base is still the local marrabenta rhythm, they've become adventurous enough to incorporate a lot more, from the jit-driven opener, "Bula Bula," to R&B-inflected tracks and a lot more hip-hop. Matavel and Djindji, the grand old men of marrabenta, retain a strong influence over the overall sound, but it's young bucks like rapper Chiquito who shine as they drive the music quite firmly into the 21st century. The songs themselves run the gamut from love ballad ("Elisa Mabai") to wise words about "AIDS." This is a band who has found their sound and purpose and isn't afraid to explore all the possibilities. While the vocalists dazzle upfront, it's also impossible not to notice the quality of the rhythm section, who not only understand what to play, but also what not to play, happily laying back (or out) as necessary. A sublime bit of African bliss.

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