I first heard some of the songs from this album on the NPR program Afropop
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.