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I think in the west we’ve an awful tendency to look at Africa as a whole. It’s ridiculous. The continent is the second largest by population. That’s over one billion souls and 3,000 languages. To put this in a cultural comparison – there are 230 languages in Europe. Very few people could name all of them but I’m sure many westerners are aware of the main European cultural stereotypes. It is with shame that this writer must confess that he too would stumble and fall at identifying the regional cultural characteristics of Africa. Africa is the continent we all spring from and in fact so much of our music has roots in various cultural norms from the continent.
Our cherished guitars coming from the North African ud, the violin’s ancestors coming from the Middle East… This pontificating may also cause another error. In addition to African being culturally diverse, it is a culture that grows richer over time. So my shame is felt even more heavily when I heard this masterful EP that fuses our rock n roll norms with Tanzanian traditions. I’m glad I’ve found it. The listening to this has been an education and a joy and opens your mind to diverse and still mysterious continent by focusing on one of it’s most wonderful cultures.
Hjerlmuda is a Berliner with a long history of making music. He started as a drummer entertaining the masses in the divided city before participating in the nascent psychedelic scene.
Hjerlmuda is an unlikely protagonist in this tale of world sounds. He suffered/was blessed with the stoic German musical education centred on a recorder. It took the Beatles to bring him back to music after such a trauma. He followed the Liverpudlian troubadours musical journey to the east teaching himself sitar. His Soundcloud shout be just under your pointer right now because you can actually hear the manic and maniacal music he created at that time right here.
At the turn of the century Hjerlmuda found himself as a percussionist in Los Multikultis. Have you ever been to Berlin? It’s truly a world city. Really. So much wonderful colour and sound. Sure it has its hipster trendy elements but it is a genuine melting pot a real modern day Bohemia as cultures collide and embrace. It is his incubation in this open environment and Hjerlmuda’s openness to other cultures that has formed him as a sensitive curator and natural fuser of sounds from peoples far away.
Msafiri Zawose is Hjerlmuda’s partner in this project. He his renowned for his prowess with traditional Gogo style music from central Tanzania. The best terms of reference I can give is Msafiri’s father Hukwe Zawose who collaborated with Peter Gabriel and composer Michael Brook. The musical legacy is carried on through Msafiri’s work and augmented with contemporary influences.
And so to the EP itself. I’ll let you start streaming it before I wax lyrical on how important it is you listen to it. If you’ve read this far you probably should just cut to the chase and get listening and check out my commentary underneath the player:
We’ll begin with Tamasha. The track starts with a steady arpeggio and hypnotic pattern played on a lamellophone before the vocal shrieks high bringing in a choir punctuated with percussion and a synth arpeggio. This is quite excellent stuff and extremely accessible. The melodies sound preternaturally familiar despite them coming from a culture far removed from our own.
Jungle eXTasy reloaded effortlessly mixes contemporary electronica with the Gogo sound. We’re reminded very clearly here how closely we are related as a human family as Indian sonic elements and raucous percussion sit so seamlessly together. The production and arrangement as well as an impressive vocal performance deserve special mention here. Everything serves some part of the music without being overly distracting just making the piece ‘work’ in its totality.
African Groove grew from a percussion piece from Hjerlmuda that Zawose improvised over. When you listen to this it sounds like music that was always there so the fact that it is improvised almost lets you believe that both musicians are channeling into an intangible river of sound from the ages. The only thing we don’t like about this is the title. We understand why Hjerlmuda had to call it so, we just hope that more open their minds to the diversity of the continent so it can be renamed as Wagogo Groove!
RockFire In The Jungle – this is a lot of fun! Hjerlmuda and Zawose have successfully fused hard rock and Gogo music in a way that makes you wonder how this hasn’t happened before. They manage to avoid the obvious cheesy pitfalls such a melding might cause. Everything makes sense. Everything rocks!
Hjerlmuda and Zawose are visionaries. Not because they are grand academics overcooking their work. Their genius lies in their openness to dialogue and just play music. You can tell they had a lot of fun making this music and if music does this then it’s more relevant to your listening pallet than music that is over-worked.
Our recommendation can’t really be any clearer than buy this. You can of course stream it on Soundcloud but we’re advised that every cent made from this is going a collaborative Music Café in Bagamoyo, Tanzania which the guys hope will be opened soon. The musical traditions of Tanzania are wonderful so anything you can do to help their continuity is money well spent. And of course this is some of the best music you could hope to have in your life right now and a gateway to a whole continent of music you probably could do with knowing more about.