Often the lack of written language amongst Yunnan’s staggering 187 recognised ethno-subdivisions (comprising of 25 official Chinese ethnic minority groups) means that much of the highly complex histories of many of them will never be fully known. The folk songs and dances, however, continue to pass on snippets and memories of their ancient survivor consciousness. Yunnan is a place where music permeates all facets of traditional life, underscoring identity, binding related populations and passing down traditional knowledge and history. It is home to hundreds of instruments and singing styles, mostly found nowhere else in the world.
The eccentric band met whilst shepherding in the lofty hills of Lesotho, a landlocked enclave surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. Junk Funk is one of the first international recordings to come from Lesotho and is set to spread the unmistakeable Sotho Sounds worldwide.
The band plays instruments crafted out of recycled materials. Their guitars are made from tin-cans and bicycle wire, and rattle melodiously alongside the fuzzed ring of one-string fiddles and the thud and boom of their drums. Atop the mix, swinging unison vocals bring to mind the hugely popular choral tradition of Lesotho.
Like the flora and fauna of her Madagascar homeland, Lala Njava's music is distinctive and unique. The guitar that undulates underneath Lala's striking vocal throughout the album is played in a style reminiscent of the various stringed percussion instruments that dominate traditional Malagasy music. The rippling guitar strings roll out like a lush valiha,a tube zither considered the national instrument of Madagascar. The melodious mix is then punctuated with thick bass hits and shape-shifting drums.
Lala's lyrics express the deep sense of responsibility she feels towards her Malagasy homeland. Many of the songs heard here declare her intent to, and experiences upon, returning to Madagascar in the hope of solving some of the social issues that pervade village life there.