The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Ou­mou San­gare, the singer touted as West Africa’s an­swer to Amer­i­can leg­end Aretha Franklin, comes a step closer to the soul queen in style with her lat­est al­bum, Mo­goya, while re­tain­ing her rep­u­ta­tion as the ma­tri­arch of one of Mali’s rich­est cul­tural re­gions.

San­gare’s grav­i­ta­tion to­wards a more West­ern­ised groove can be at­trib­uted to a French pro­duc­tion col­lec­tive that has worked with rock roy­alty such as Franz Fer­di­nand. The Song­bird of Was­soulou’s sev­enth al­bum in 27 years sends a pow­er­ful mes­sage, based on val­ues such as sol­i­dar­ity and re­spect.

Although kamele n’goni lute-harp and cal­abash, tama and karig­nan per­cus­sion weave in and out through­out the new set, the tra­di­tional African in­stru­men­ta­tion is sub­servient to elec­tric gui­tars, key­boards, bass and kit-drum.

The distinc­tive drum­ming of Tony Allen — co-pro­gen­i­tor with Fela Kuti of Nige­rian Afrobeat — gen­er­ates the drive in Yere Faga, a song al­lud­ing to the taboo sur­round­ing sui­cide, and Fad­jamou, in which San­gare ad­dresses the pro­found sig­nif­i­cance of fam­ily names in her cul­ture.

Hand per­cus­sion and kick drum com­bine with n’goni and synth lines to pro­duce a com­pelling pulse in Kamelemba.

Clat­ter­ing cow­bells and fe­male vo­cal har­mony back-up form the back­drop to Mi­nata Waraba, a trib­ute to the re­silience of moth­ers. In the funky Djouk­ourou, a fuzzy rock gui­tar solo sup­plants lute lines.

Slower and stripped back to bass and strings — at least for the first half — the bluesy ti­tle track al­lows San­gare’s raw and pow­er­ful voice a wider range of ex­pres­sion.

The in­ter­na­tional pro­file of Zim­bab­wean Mo­goya Ou­mou San­gare No For­mat mu­sic, which peaked in the 1980s with the emer­gence of acts such as the Bhundu Boys, Thomas Map­fumo and Oliver Mtukudzi, has been re­vived in re­cent years with the as­cent of a group of out­liers from that trou­bled na­tion’s bor­der re­gion.

Mokoomba hails from a town­ship lo­cated near the Vic­to­ria Falls in Zim­babwe’s far north­west. Led by the ex­tra­or­di­nary voice of leader Mathias Muzaza, the sex­tet sings in the mi­nor­ity lan­guage of Tonga and the more widely spo­ken Shona and Nde­bele tongues.

The Zam­bezi River and its world-fa­mous Vic­to­ria Falls in­spire sev­eral songs on the band’s new record­ing, Luyando.

Mokoomba has toned down the rock­o­ri­en­ta­tion of its pre­vi­ous al­bums Kwe­seka (2009) and Ris­ing Tide (2012) for a stripped­back, pre­dom­i­nantly acous­tic sound. The new songs are also more deeply rooted in their lo­cal her­itage and en­vi­ron­ment.

Em­broi­dered with jazzy flute, open­ing cut Mokole em­pha­sises the life-giv­ing force of the river.

Kam­bowa refers to the trau­matic dis­place­ment of the Tonga from their ances­tral lands in the mid-1950s to make way for the Kariba Dam. This po­tent call and re­sponse song fea­tures im­pas­sioned singing in tan­dem with tribal drums and hand­clap­ping.

In Vimbe, clap sticks ac­com­pany quick-fire ex­changes be­tween the vo­cal­ists.

A cheeky courtship song, Nyaradzo, starts with lush vo­cal har­mony that’s rem­i­nis­cent of South Africa’s Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo.

In Kulindiswe and Muzwile, BaTonga rhythms are fused with the danc­ing elec­tric gui­tar style of Con­golese souk­ous.

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