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Rise Up Import
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2006 release by the single most popular musician in Zimbabwe for over 25 years. Mapfumo draws on such an array of genres - African jazz, classic R&B, Shona spirit music, rock, reggae and a variety of local Zimbabwean styles - that he has formed a completely new style of music, which he calls 'Chimurenga'. Loping rhythms form the bedrock for the groove which is constant, incessant and which underpins the horns, the vocals, the African girl's chorus and chants - it is as unique and in it's own way as influential on his country as Fela Kuti or even western performers such as James Brown.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Corruption is like a disease that plagues the whole world. There are many leaders and others with power who are misleading the people.The songs remind everyone that corruption is everywhere and that no one can run away from justice."
"This song is about the exploitation of the poor by the rich. There comes a time of confrontation when the poor say enough, we will not be controlled by those who do not practice what they preach."
"This song is about family men who spend all their time and lose all their money in pubs and 'shabeens' with 'girls of sport'."
Mapfumo's gruff baritone voice is an instrument as lyrical or as fierce as he wants it to be. It's a voice that can't be doubted. His singing/chanting cries of protest are backed up by music that can only be heard as richly joyful. If these songs are to be sung in the streets of protest, then the singers will be dancing. The source of Mapfumo's music is tribal Africa, as any amount of listening to ethnographic field recordings would show. The complex layers of duple and triple rhythm, expressed in melodic patterns based on the sound of the mbira (thumb piano), are ancestral, as is Mapfumo's cascade-of-words delivery. Recent CDs show a steadily growing international influence on Mapfumo, especially the influence of reggae, and more readiness to incorporate the "high life" jazz sounds of African pop music. There is a kind of 'disconnect' between the anguish often expressed in Mapfumo's words and the exuberance of his music, but that disconnect is ours, not his. Mapfumo is a man of joy in a world of sorrow.
Worldwide in the spring of 2005. 'Rise Up' has been available as a download from
the Calabash Music website since April 2005 (when I purchased it), but was only
released in CD form in July 2006.
It's a shame that it has taken so long for the rest of the world to learn about this
album, because for me this album is the fulfillment of a sound I had been seeking
for much of my life. I had long enjoyed the sinuous guitar lines that graced songs
like Paul Simon's 'Crazy Love, Vol. II' (Graceland) and '(Nothing But) Flowers' by the
Talking Heads (Naked), and wanted to find African music of the sort that had
inspired those melodies.
'Rise Up' , though released two decades after those songs, is everything I had
been looking for: rich guitar melodies, organ loops reminiscent of Marleyesque
Reggae, sweet vocal accompaniment by the backup singers, and Mapfumo's own
gruff, world-weary voice as it expresses dissatisfaction with what has happened to
his Zimbabwean homeland under the regime of Robert Mugabe (Mapfumo is living
in exile in the United States).
The guitar melodies, which first drew my attention, mimic those of the traditional
mbira thumb pianos of Mapfumo's Shona people. It's funny that music with such an
acerbic political message (just look at the song titles!) can simultaneously convey
images of lush tropical rain forests, cool waterfalls, and colorful tropical birds...
OK, maybe that's just my interpretation--buy this album and listen for yourself, for
it will take you to amazing places too.
Central to his music is the mbira, a thumb piano. The mbiras are a constant, but along with guitars, organ, horns, and backing singers. The result is beautiful, melodic music. Some tracks are livelier than others, but overall there is perhaps a more laid back feel to "Rise Up" than some of his earlier albums.
The album is sung in Shona, but the liner notes give an explanation of each song in English. These are instructive, because politics, disease and moral issues feature prominently. Yet for non Shona speakers, listening to the music without reading these explanations, you would never guess at the depth and sometimes anger of the lyrical content.
The album comprises eleven long songs, 70 minutes in total. There isn't a weak song on the album. This would certainly appeal to anyone familiar with his earlier work, but the album serves as a great introduction to Mapfumo. I highly recommend it.