Mathew Tembo and the Dark Black - Anthem
BY: Mathew Tembo and the Dark Black - Anthem
Genre or type: Reggae
This is the sixth release from Zambian reggae singer Mathew Tembo. For this recording, he turns to the roots of his country's music and in so doing creates a likeable fusion of Zambian tradition with fat reggae bass lines. The silimba is the principal traditional instrument that leads the ensemble. It is the Zambian version of the balafon or marimba - a xylophone with hand-carved wooden keys mounted on calabash resonators. The overall sound is very similar to the music of Thomas Mapfumo from neighbouring Zimbabwe and it is no surprise that Tembo cites Mapfumo as one of his favourite musians. The circular melodic patterns of Tembo's marimba replicate the Mapfumo mbira (thumb piano) and the earthy male vocal backed by sweet female harmonies gives Anthem a real chimurenga feeling. Tembos songs (performed in a mixture of Zambian languages with a little English) are instantly enjoyable and very commercial: when he breaks into his reggae groove, he sounds like he could be a worthy successor to the late Lucky Dube.
However, his focus on traditional music gives him an additional dimension. Tembo is using his skills to make instruments, and he teaches children how to play traditional music; he is an important ambassador for Zambian culture. Anthem is a tremendously enjoyable contemporary production with organic elements that should appeal to African reggae fans and also an entirely new audience looking for some traditional roots music.
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