(World Music Network, 2001)
I never thought I would find another African artist or group to compete with Cesaria Evora from Cabo Verde. But jump from these islands off the northwest coast of Africa to an island off the southeast coast of Africa and you find the group Eyuphuro. After a hiatus of many years, the reformed group has released Yellela.
Eyuphuro means "whirlwind" and is an appropriate name for this group from the island of Mozambique (part of the country of the same name) which is connected to the mainland via a toll bridge. This group's original incarnation existed in the '80s when the group was formed by Omar Issa, Gimo Remane and vocalist Zena Bacar. Nine years after their original split, the group has been reformed by Zena.
Zena and new member Issufo Manuel both provide vocals and compositions for the group. Mussa Abdala provides lead percussion. Rhythm percussion is handled by Belarmino Rita Godeiros. Jorge Cossa also helps out with percussion. Firmino Luis Hunguana plays bass while Mahamudo Selimane plays guitar. Yellela features guest performances by Mariamo Mussa Hohberg providing vocals, Orlando da Conceicao on the saxophone and Benedito Mazbuko on keyboard. According to promotional material, original group member Omar Issa returned to the fold in early 2001.
The liner notes state that Zena Bacar is known as the "golden voice of Mozambique." It is easy to hear why when you listen to her powerful vocals belt out songs of lost love, the destruction of marriages and what life is like for women in Mozambique. Issufo's songs focus more on a love of Africa despite all its problems. He also looks to the people for inspiration. If they could just get past the war and poverty, there is enough for everybody.
The fact that you more than likely will not know the words being sung really does not matter. Yellela leaps across the language divide and speaks through complex rhythms, irresistible riffs and a musical harmony that demands attention. And for those of you who just have to know the lyrics, English translations are available in the liner notes.
I think that a quote from the liner notes sums up Yellela quite nicely. "The album reflects the island of Mozambique's role as a meeting point of African, Arabic and Latin cultures dating back to the eighth century, which has created a fusion of musical influences." If you are a fan of world music, put this CD on your list of music to buy ... now!
[ by Wil Owen ]