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If Lala Njava's music was a colour, it would be indigo - a dark, pensive hue that rings with a deep, almost bluesy, edge. Listening to Malagasy Blues Song, we hear bending guitar lines, Lala's silvery wandering voice and rippling percussion winding together in harmony.
Malagasy Blues Song is Lala's debut solo release, but as a young musician she gained a wealth of experience from performing live with her family band, Njava. In conversation, Lala explains the organic and free-flowing way in which their familial music-making occurred.Upon moving to Europe during the 1990s, the band became professionally established and smoothly scaled the ladder of success, recording two albums for EMI, embarking on a world tour and laying down some vocals for renowned 'ethnic-electronica' group Deep Forest. 'Sweet Lullaby' heard on Malagasy Blues Song is a re-recording of a track that Lala performed live with Deep Forest many times during this era of her career. Lala's version is very different from the 1990s recorded pop original, and is deliciously reworked with her languorous bluesy swing. Stripped back to an acoustic setting, the lilting melody sparkles in its simplicity.
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.
The opening track on the album, 'Soa Gnanay' is a rich nostalgic tune, recalling the beauty of Lala's homeland and inviting people to visit it regardless of the bad portrayal it is sometimes given in the international media. The looping riff that opens the album sounds bare, almost desolate, but soon Lala's warm, enveloping voice swoops in to add a bright positive edge.
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. 'Dinako' means 'promise' in English and is a soulful track that explores Lala's desire to give something back to the community from which she came.
Malagasy Blues Songis an album of deep and sonorous songs penned with purposeful lyrics. Melt into Lala's expressive sound-world as she threads together the rich tapestry of the sounds, experiences and desires that have stitched her colourful life so far.
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Further information, including German & French translations are available here
Lala Njava supports the Graine de vie project in Madagascar
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