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African Legends

Mabulu

By Tom Pryor
Published November 17, 2006

The Mozambican band Mabulu unites up-and-coming young rappers and singers with master musicians from the golden age of marrabenta, Mozambique’s classic pop sound of the ’60s and ’70s.

Formed in 2000 under the auspices of East German expat producer Roland Hohberg, Mabulu brought together 62-year-old Lisboa Matavel and António Marcos (the “Grand Old Men of Marrabenta”) with such youngbloods as 22-year-old rapper Chiquto and 20-year-old singer Chonyl. The group was rounded out by drummer Jorgito, bassist Eduardo and rhythm guitarist Zoco, all members of the Mozambican pop group Mix Malta. The result was a multigenerational mashup that breathed fresh new life into an elegant, but fading style.

That style is marrabenta, the dance music that grew up in the East African nation’s capital, Maputu (known as Lourenço Marques during the era of Portuguese colonial rule), and it has a lilting, Latinate feel one might expect in a port town that was once connected, via the Portuguese maritime empire, to Brazil, Cape Verde and Angola. Mabulu added elements of South African kwela, Zimbabwean chimurenga and homegrown hip-hop into the mix to come up with a whole new take on the music.

Unfortunately, their initial recording sessions coincided with devastating floods that plagued Mozambique that same year, so their project of unity and reconciliation took on a more urgent tone, and the fledgling group found itself performing for disaster relief efforts, instead of local audiences. But Mabulu returned triumphantly a year later with their second release, Soul Marrabenta (Riverboat), and brought along another living legend, Dilon Djindji, for the ride. The result was a rousing international success that proved that this unique multigenerational project had a few more lessons to teach the people.

Recommended Recordings

Karimbo (Riverboat)
Soul Marrabenta (Riverboat)
The Rough Guide To The Music Of Marrabenta: Mozambique (World Music Network)