Code Sangala: Mizu

review sangala x1 cong

Last week we wrote about a CD from classical music label Naxos’s new world arm, a rootsy collection of traditional folk from Mongolia; this week is the opposite end of the spectrum, a cheerful collection of radio-friendly tracks from Malawi.

Mizu means roots in Chichewa, the national vernacular language in Malawi. Sangala is clearly a celebrity in his home country: he was co-founder of a duo — Kapirintiya — with his young brother Shadrick “Shadre” Sangala, and they rose to fame in 2001 with a debut album entitled Kwathu nku Ndirande, which included several hit singles. Their third album included a track that is still a crowd-pleaser at clubs and weddings in Malawi, apparently.

He is also a radio DJ and represented Malawi on Big Brother Africa. So: he’s a proper musician and knows his roots but he also knows how to get tunes on the radio. This is not earnest world for fans to stroke their chins over but catchy pop music based on traditional roots that aims to notch up hits for Sangala.

The music is inspired by traditional Malawian dances, with “a contemporary flair”, which means making them easier to listen to. Opener Chisoso is summery and cheerful, despite being about having to eat a staple Malawian vegetable: “One day I will get away from this house / I am tired of eating Chisoso” .. a contrast to the songs of wistful longing and admiration for the beauty of the land in last week’s Mongolian collection.

Track two praises musicians and declares that any who says musicians are smokers and addicts is a liar. So true. Track three is a more traditional tune — he has maintained ties with a traditional dance ensemble he works with called Chichiri Cultural Troupe, which operates out of the Museum of Malawi in Blantyre — so he is genuine about the traditions as well as having an ear for pop melody.

All in all, a bright collection of poppy Afrobeat, for enjoying and not analysing; perhaps a little lightweight for people who expect their world music to be taken oh-so-seriously.

This is out on Naxos World, NXW76109-2.


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