So strong was the aroma of Karekare Beach hippy about The Mamaku Project that you could practically smell the patchouli oil oozing off the vibrations of their hotchpotch of music styles. They were ambitious, in their own way, but their ragtag concoction was flawed.
When the wheels came off, it was perhaps inevitable that the group’s frontperson, Tui Mamaki, would feel her way towards a solo album. But
Fly is a real surprise, and for those who can handle the idea of spending half an hour listening primarily to voice and acoustic guitar, it’s something of a revelation.
On Fly, the loose, rogue elements that limited her former group’s focus have been replaced by an intense, almost devotional ardour that’s at once deeply reflective and celebratory. And there’s something else that invests her solo debut with a point of difference that’s surprising: it’s the product of an immersion in Bulgarian music, and she’s brushed up her vocal technique to reflect the infinite subtleties and modal aspects of that culture.
This isn’t half-hearted cultural tourism; Mamaki moved to Bulgaria to undertake her studies, then recorded the result — six exquisitely intimate songs that bear a Koanlike simplicity — in France. She has another group, Acapollinations, which more explicitly references her interest in Bulgarian folklore, but it’s intrinsic to Fly, too, peaking on the exquisite and rather epic opening track, “Follow”, and the last song, an interpretation of the Bulgarian folk tune, “Gyuro”.
Ultimately, however, it’s the sense that Fly represents a clean break from the past with an impassioned and beautifully articulated set of ruminations on the things that matter that makes the album carry its weight with grace.
FLY IS RELEASED ON NOVEMBER 1. TUI MAMAKI PERFORMS IN AUCKLAND ON NOVEMBER 11.
GARY STEEL PRESIDES
OVER ENTERTAINMENT SITE WITCHDOCTOR.CO.NZ