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Mabulu: Karimbo

One of the remarkable traits of much African music is its ability to rise high above the ruckus at ground level, to provide the world with some of the most uplifting, life-affirming music we know. You’d think, from the vibrant energies of juju and township jive that Nigeria and South Africa were the happiest places on earth, even though we fully know otherwise. It has to do with the spiritual resiliency of a people, whatever the travails of real life, and the transcendent nature of music.

So it is, too, with the fantastic debut album Karimbo (World Music Network 1021; 48:48) by the group from Mozambique known as Mabulu. Listening to the swaying, surging rhythms and colorful blend of traditional older musicians, such as vocalist Lisboa Matavel, the entrenched dance style called marrabenta, and young rapper Chiquito, you wouldn’t naturally think of the poverty of the country or its recent debilitating floods. From the opening strains of the first track, “N’twananu,” with its hypnotic guitar riff and blend of infectiously sweet grooves and rolling melodic terrain, the album hooks you, drawing you into a world which knows inspiration over desperation.

Originally Published