Massukos is more than a band — it’s a living breathing force for good in Mozambique, and Bumping is a jubilant, uplifting musical torch bearer for one of the poorest parts of Africa.
Hailing from the Niassa province, lead singer and guitarist Feliciano dos Santos combines his day job as director of the NGO Estamos (dedicated to clean water and decent sanitation) with that of spreading his message via the dance-friendly rhythms preserved through this exuberant modern take on the traditional music of the area. These aren’t worthy but dull socially-aware songs, nor is the music reverently preserved in aspic. It’s all ebullient, bubbly stuff, with dos Santos’s rhythm guitar dovetailing with electric guitar, bass, sparky percussion, fluid waves of organ from Carlos Alvaro Socrates and colourful interjections from a brass section comprising guest jazz musicians Harry Beckett, Steve Buckley and Dean Brodrick. Mudacia Wana gets the album off to a rousing start, with its subtle dance beat, gorgeous call and response harmonies, mellifluous guitar and subtle overlays of keyboard. And there’s some nice, chunky ska-style electric guitar on the next track, Ndjango. It continues in this bright, inventive vein throughout, each track as alluring as the next while remaining unique enough to keep things interesting - whether it be the raunchy, bass-driven title-track, the sing-along sweetness of Ntolilo or any of the other slight, subtle shifts of tone. Only the ballad Pangira lowers the temperature, and it jars slightly in the context of this suite of songs, its acoustic, unplugged reprise at the end of the CD being a more natural way of bringing the mood down. But that very slight reservation apart, if the remaining nine shots of inspirational musical optimism are anything to go by, Massukos are one of the must-see acts at this year’s WOMAD festival at Charlton Park. If you can’t make that event, fear not because this album has the power to bring sunshine and hope wherever it is played.
This review first appeared on www.flyglobalmusic.com