Monoswezi The Village on LP
The Village, Monoswezi’s 2012 debut album, is a collection of rearranged Zimbabwean traditional songs blended with a cool Nordic edge. What the band prize about Zimbabwean music is its inherent openness, a quality that shares much with that fresh airy feel inherent in the Scandinavian jazz sound.
Creatively they carve a musical link that not only sounds entirely new, but crosses the oceans, eschews politics and embraces wholeheartedly the values of cross-cultural collaboration. With members hailing from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Norway and Sweden the boundary-crossing band’s sound is entirely unique. Articulated mbira rings out atop colorful woodwind and the gentle rhythm section.
The music is structured via looping cyclical riffs that lock down into solid rhythmic patterns. The band describes their music as "strong," a term that communicates well the steady, circuitous nature of the music. It is an idea that has been a source of interest for other composers, including minimalist maestros Philip Glass and Steve Reich, whose parallel influence can be heard on works such as the cell-like track "Metal Drum." Here the atmosphere conjures up the same spooky, anticipatory feeling as Glass' Glassworks or Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood.
Hope Masike, who can be heard playing mbira and singing throughout the album, is a remarkable musician, trained in traditional music, jazz, dance, and more. Not only can she interlock tight rhythms while singing with a smooth unforced voice, but she is one of a relatively small number of females who play the mbira. Following in the footsteps of pioneers such as Stella Chiweshe, Hope plays the instrument – which has historically been male-dominated – with pride. Hallvard Godal’s saxophone technique is clean and unadorned, a sound that locks in perfectly with the struck aesthetic of the mbira. Calu contributes gentle rolling vocals which he sings in Ronga, his Mozambican mother tongue.
Listening to the quirky cool sounds on this collection, the Monoswezi brand is set to expand even further afield, and who knows where their next experiment could take this back-bendingly flexible band...
Monoswezi The Village Track Listing:
4. Kuenda Mbire
8. Metal Drum