by: Mabulu

When Debbie Harry and Blondie recorded Rapture in 1980, it marked the first time that a major pop/rock act acknowledged hip-hop culture. Some myopic individuals wondered why Harry would salute something that was, in their minds, a passing fad. But Harry had the last laugh when hip-hop started playing a prominent role in popular culture -- not only in the U.S., but all over the world. From Japanese rockers in Tokyo to neo-Celtic bands in Dublin to Afro-Brazilian popsters in Salvador, Bahia, hip-hop's influence is amazingly far-reaching. And hip-hop is also influential in an African country like Mozambique, where Mabulu is based. Karimbo, the band's debut album, isn't hip-hop -- it's melodic African pop, but melodic African pop with a strong hip-hop influence. This intriguing CD contains more singing than rapping, although rapper Chiquito is prominently featured on many of the songs. Quite often, the lead singing of Lisbao Matavel, António Marcus, or Alberto Mutcheca (most of it in the Shangana language) will dominate a song and be followed by some rapping from Chiquito (who is also a member of the Mozambican rap group Mad Level). Karimbo also contains some dancehall influence; Mr. Arssen, a ragga toaster, is featured on "Yingisa" and the traditional "Ngoma Macandju." It should be noted that the ages of the participants vary considerably -- Matavel, a well-respected veteran of Mozambican pop, was 62 when this album was recorded in March 2000, while Chiquito was only 22. So arguably, Karimbo is the Mozambican pop equivalent of an R&B project in which the producer unites a veteran soul singer (maybe James Brown, maybe Ray Charles or Wilson Picket) with a promising MC who is young enough to be his grandson. This excellent CD is highly recommended to anyone who is seeking something fresh and challenging from African pop. ~ Alex Henderson

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