Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 02:02
Monoswezi has created a smooth and playful album, The Village, that invites listeners on an audio exploration of different cultures.
Monoswezi is an Oslo based collective whose members hail from Mozambique, Norway, Sweden, and Zimbabwe. The band takes traditional music from Mozambique and Zimbabwe and mixes it seamlessly with jazz.
The Village is full of looping sounds, rhythmic percussion, smooth saxophone, and dancing vocals, but the band’s most distinctive sound comes from the mbira—a traditional instrument made from a wooden base with metal prongs attached. When the prongs are plucked, it creates a sound similar to an old music box, which forms the foundation for most of the songs.
The opening track, “Hondo,” incorporates the mbira right off, creating a rain-like base and the feel of a still, dark afternoon. This is followed by Hope Masike’s voice, which comes in strong, smooth, and optimistic over the repeating sound of the mbira. As the song moves along the saxophone takes center stage, winding through the music at a leisurely pace.
“Kalahari” has more of a lounge feel to it, elegantly featuring the saxophone and clarinet. The image of a dark, smoky bar with the band solemnly playing on a dimly lit stage comes to mind.
The Village is a joyful, although somewhat subdued album that is easy to listen to. There is always a danger that unaccustomed listeners will feel foreign music can be a one note, but Monswezi has managed to create unique and individual songs that still come together cohesively to build The Village.