ZAMAJOBE / Zamajobe Mixtape
I listen to a lot of music, not just looking for something new or trying to be the first to hear the next star but rather I listen because I am genuinely moved by beautiful music and I like to stay in motion.
As for music from Africa, based on over forty years of active listening I recognize that my two epicenters of concentration are Mali (especially the women vocalists) and South Africa (particularly the jazz musicians). While thankfully I don’t have to choose, it seems that every month or so, I encounter a musician who tips the balance one way or the other.
Last time out on BoL, I was marveling about Faoumata Diawara, an afropolitian originally from Mali who currently resides in Paris. This time my focus is on Zamajobe, a young South African vocalist/songwriter who has caught my ear. Although her overall style borders on smooth jazz with traditional African root touches, I hear substance and convictions in her sound more than calculated trendiness and professional marketing. Zamajobe offers us serious and hip contemporary pop music.
My attraction to this music is two-fold: one, the overall production and two, the vocal quality. All around the world there are flocks of female singers trying to carve out a niche for themselves while attempting to stand out from a sonic stampede of competitors. Some do it with gimmicky publicity stunts, others employ provocative stage theatrics. Zamajobe concentrates on songwriting and performance that reflects her personal concerns and interests.
To be sure the overall sound is soothing and light but fortunately she addresses serious issues and in combination with her producer and lead guitarist Eric Pilani, she expertly dances on the tight-rope stretching between pop and serious music.
Our Mixtape starts of with five tracks from Zamajobe’s debut release, Ndawo Yami and concludes with seven tracks from the sophomore release, Ndoni Yamanzi. Even though a number of the songs are in English or mix English with South African languages, you can tell from the album titles that Zamajobe is primarily aiming at a regional audience.
Production-wise the sound is super clean and urban radio, quiet-storm friendly. There are tons of small touches that I appreciate, from the mike placement to the mixing levels of the various instruments and voices. But beyond studio techniques, there are also some inspired musical decisions. For example on Ndawo Yami many of the tracks start with a little percussive drum pick-up: one or two well hit, licks that set the pace. Whereas, Ndoni Yamanzi, the notoriously difficult to pull-off sophomore release, employs musical intros that establish the groove. These are not negligible issues. The quality of the arrangements often make the difference between merely ok and music that grabs your attention.
In an interview Zamajobe described the process: "I would sing something to Eric and he would transfer it to the guitar, and we would expand the song from there. Even though I have been playing the guitar for a few years, having Eric, who is so experienced, as my collaborator, meant the process just flowed and I think we have come up with songs that people will love."
Since 2005 she has been winning numerous awards and tons of award nominations for both her performances and her recordings. The quality of her music plays a large part in garnering the attention she has received. Beyond the music per se is the beautiful quality of her voice. Her instrument is a joy to behold/be-hear. She has an airy, floating that warmly embraces the listener and entices you to cuddle up to the warmth o her sonics.
Rather than stomping and rump-shaking, Zamajobe calmly floats and trance-like oscillates, or melodically ululates over an interwoven carpet of sensitive percussion and harmonically rich choral voices. Some music makes you want to jump up and get it on, other music makes you want to slow down, kick back, in a supine position and just chill (preferably with an intimate soulmate)—Zamajobe is music to appreciate when you’ve got the time to slowly savor the auditory feast.
Thank you my sister for blessing us with the beauty of your music.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Zamajobe Mixtape Playlist
02 “Hey, Hey, Hey”
03 “Come With Me”
04 “Ye Wena Sani”
05 “African Girl”
06 “Come To Me”
08 “Mwezi S'unama”
11 “Ndoni Yamanzi”
12 “Bheka Mina”
This entry was posted on Monday, October 10th, 2011 at 2:46 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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