'A hypnotic blend of Norwegian saxophone and Zimbabwean mbira' 4**** stars, Financial Times

'The songs are traditional, given life by the supple, at times spectacular vocals... Classy stuff' 4**** stars, The Observer

'The Village largely whispers rather than shouts, and it's all the more powerful for it' 4**** stars, The Independent On Sunday

CNN - Interview and feature

'A fine recording... Breaking moulds of both gender and nationality' 4****stars, Songlines 


Monoswezi - The Village

The Village, Monoswezi’s 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 colourful 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’s 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

Song Descriptions

01       Hondo
‘Hondo’ translates as war, and the lyrics to this song are a lament for those who suffer from conflict. As well as political and military clashes, the words also reflect on the war against AIDS, a devastating illness which around 14% of people live with in Zimbabwe.  

02       Ndinewe       
‘Ndinewe’ is a praise song. The lyrics tell of contentment, and the singer relays the message that no matter what sorrows befall them, they will be happy and joyful throughout life.

03       Kuenda Mbire
‘Kuenda Mbire’ means ‘going to a new place’. This traditional song is mostly sung at funerals, and tells of a mysterious other world to which the dead shall pass on to.

04       Mapfunde    
This song borrows the chorus from is a traditional children’s song that says ‘Let’s roast the sorghum and get ready for a party’. Sorghum is roasted in preparation for brewing beer, which always accompanies celebrations. The rest of the lyrics mention various children’s games and their related melodies in hope of passing them on to the youth of today.

05       Kalahari       
This song was inspired by a mbira that band member Hallvard found at a friend’s house. The timbre of the instrument reminded him of the desert. Here the mbira is accompanied by an alto clarinet that acts like a desert flute. On top the lyrics are sung in Ronga, a Mozambican language.           

06       Heya!
‘Heya!’ is a love song. The lyrics tell of an undying passion, ‘Even though they discourage me, I still want to be with you. / They say you are poor, but I know you are rich’.

07       Nhemamsasa         
This song warns listeners to be prepared, or ‘Make hay when the sun still shines’, as you never know what is around the corner. The word ‘Nhema’ comes from the verb ‘kutema’ which means to cut. So the song warns people to cut down trees to make houses, so that when the rain comes they can stay dry.

08       Xitimela       
‘Xitimela’ is a celebration song about the Makwyi Festival that takes place in Manhiça, Mozambique once a year. The light-hearted song tells of the free transport to the festival that ensures everyone is invited, and can travel to the party.

09       Matue Tue
This song is about a father who is teaching his child playground games and songs. It celebrates the oral tradition between generations.

10       Metal Drum 
Here the two main percussion instruments used are a piece of cardboard and an old cooking pot. The recycled timbre’s bounce lightly against a clarinet, mbira and more.