Monoswezi's line up includes Hope Masike, Halvard Godal and Calu. Zimbabwean national Hope is the lead vocalist, interpreter and arranger. Much of the material are reinterpretations of traditional songs from her home country. Hope Masike interlocks tight rhythms while singing with a smooth unforced voice. She is one of a relatively small number of females who play the mbira (thumb piano). Following in the footsteps of pioneers such as Stella Chiweshe, Hope plays the instrument – which has historically been male-dominated – with pride. Hallvard Godal’s saxophone technique is clean and unadorned, a sound that locks in perfectly with the struck aesthetic of the mbira. Calu contributes gentle rolling vocals which he sings in Ronga, his Mozambican mother tongue.
Creatively they carve a musical link that not only sounds entirely new, but crosses the oceans, eschews politics and embraces wholeheartedly the values of cross-cultural collaboration. With members hailing from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Norway and Sweden the boundary-crossing band’s sound is entirely unique. Articulated mbira rings out atop colourful woodwind and the gentle rhythm section.
The music is structured via looping cyclical riffs that lock down into solid rhythmic patterns. The band describes their music as ‘strong’, a term that communicates well the steady, circuitous nature of the music. It is an idea that has been a source of interest for other composers, including minimalist maestros Philip Glass and Steve Reich, whose parallel influence can be heard on works such as the cell-like track ‘Metal Drum’. Here the atmosphere conjures up the same spooky, anticipatory feeling as Glass’s Glassworks or Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood.
Watch 'Ndinewe' and listen to the stratospheric vocal acrobatics of Hope Masike. The Monoswezi brand is set to expand even further afield, and who knows where their next experiment could take this back-bendingly flexible band…
Monoswezi’s music sounds fresh and wide-open: traits that owe to the bands marvelously multi-cultural inspirations. Expect gentle mbira, looping percussion, memorable sung melodies, and subtle saxophone.
'Even though we're only a week into January, I feel confident their strikingly atmospheric debut album The Village will be on my end-of-year list for 2013' The Independent, UK