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Maputo, Maputo, Mozambique | MAJOR

Maputo, Maputo, Mozambique | MAJOR
Band World Pop




"Ghorwane - Kudumba"

When this 11-piece dance band from Mozambique released their first international recording in 1994, they sounded a sweet sign of life from a land that had been brutalized by civil war for over 16 years. This follow-up, recorded in the Netherlands, continues the mood of celebration and uplift. Ghorwane are a classic African big band, omnivorous imitators who, for all their borrowings, can't help but sound original. The opening track marries South African jive and Zairean rumba, but the band's swinging horn section plainly distinguishes it from either genre. Ghorwane's adaptations of uniquely Mozambiquan rhythms ultimately define them, as in "Salabudê," a loping 6/8 number with a piano part that plays like a twisted Cuban montuno. Mozambique's Porguguese colonial past shines through in a distinctive Latin flavor, something deeper than the result of listening to a lot of Cuban records. The musicians sound sharper here than on the group's first release, and the arrangements have more clever touches, but from the luscious vocal harmonies, to the glistening guitar breaks, tripping percussion sections and warm horn fills, the magic here stems from the unmistakable intimacy that only a working band can deliver.
Sadly, the continent seems to produce fewer and fewer such groups in this era of singing stars, small combos, and studio artists. It's hard for such large African groups to tour--they virtually never come to the US anymore--so it seems a small miracle to discover one that still has the support, the resources and the will to keep developing and recording new material . The songs here are sung in Shangan and Ronga and explore post-war themes--the rediscovery of traditions, the need to air the painful experiences of war and the responsibilities that come with peace. Engaged and powerful, Ghorwane still live in the golden era of African pop and this recording lets us share in the glory.

Contributed by: Banning Eyre
Originally published in: Boston Phoenix - Boston Phoenix

"Ghorwane - Vana Va Ndota"

Mozambique’s greatest popular band, Ghorwane, has produced only three albums since it formed in 1983. The group’s international debut, Majurugenta (Real World 1993) established it as a major player in Southern African music with a rousing, soulful blend of guitars, horns, drums, and fabulously harmonizing voices. The group’s singers imbued the concerns of common people with the force of high art. And Ghorwane’s followup, Kudumba (Piranha, 1997), proved equally strong. But the path has never been easy. As Mozambique emerged from years of bitter civil war, the country faced dire economic challenges. Its music industry had never been developed, and when at last free to grow, it gravitated towards jazz from South Africa and Cape Verdean pop, offering no support to roots pop, let alone traditional music. Very much a peoples’ band, Ghorwane received little commercial consideration in this environment. Then, in 2001, founding member, guitarist and songwriter, Pedro Langa was killed. Many thought the band couldn’t survive, but they underestimated the creativity and spirit of the survivors in Ghorwane.

Though a long time in coming, this album demolishes any notion of Ghorwane’s demise with impeccable musicianship, production, and songwriting artistry. These pieces are as powerful as any the band has created. “Beijinhos” opens things up with the cool swing of South African jazz and a tasty vocal hook. The song celebrates the love life of the musician who shares everything, but always remains “a player.” The title track, a pumping, melancholy anthem about exploitation, builds around chief composer Robert Chitsonza’s rich vocal. “Kandifuna” pumps beneath a crying melody with the earthy drive of South African Shangaan music, while “Guidema” plays a little like an ambling, Cape Verdean morna. Despite a rich array of influences and souces, what we get above all in these 13 tracks is a completely original sound. Whether reworking a children’s dance (“Xichukete”), or engaging in spontaneous group creation (“Tlhivhi”), Ghorwane’s sound and spirit are singular and unmistakable. The sound is big but uncluttered, as layerings of voices, horns, percussion, guitars and keyboards paint vivid sonic landscapes. There’s a pervasive air of melancholy and seriousness that elevates the music to an emotional plane more fun-loving, celebratory Afropop just can’t reach. At the same time, even when the subject is the suffering of the war years (“Xindzavane”), the loss of solidarity among people (“Thanga”), or the violent consequences of sexual bad behavior (“Ubiwilotolo”), the music is never a downer. Its transcendent beauty prevails over all sadness.

Roberto Chitsonzo composed most of these songs, and their superb and memorable melodies testify to his awesome talent. There are also two songs by the late Pedro Langa, --the lyrical lullaby of war, “Thiary,” and the rootsy, polyrhythmic “Ndzava,” also a remembrance of war—and one song by Zeca Alage, a founding band member killed in 1993, just before the band broke internationally. Ghornwane pays homage to its past and its fallen even as it charts a strong new course for the future. An album loaded with sweet, melodic hooks and inventive arranging flourishes, Vana Va Ndota was worth the wait.

Contributed by: Banning Eyre for -

"Ghorwane - Vana Va Ndota"

Named for a lake in their home country that reportedly never runs dry, Mozambique's Ghorwane have been carrying on for 20 years now. Interestingly, their sound doesn't bear much resemblance to that of music from other such former Portuguese colonies as Angola or Cape Verde. Rather, they go for a more streamlined, pan-African pop feel. And since their songs address such universal issues as war, ethnic and class disparities, the cycle of violence and the ups and downs of progress, the inclusive approach works. This album won't take your ears by storm; it makes it's mark with the same kind of low-key charms you might expect from, say, Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi. The rhythms have a delicate but insistent pull to them, framing keyboard and horn accents that show the influence of jazz and Latin music also heard in the shifting drum, percussion and bass foundation. Despite moments that veer close to a smooth jazz kind of glossiness, the simple strength of the grooves can be counted on to save the day along with the confessional quality of Roberto Chitsonzo's lead vocals and some aching support singing from the band. Ghorwane are known as the "Good Guys" of Mozambique, and their music makes the reasons clear- it's full of heart, spirit and an obvious love for the country and continent that spawned it. This is African music that runs more warm than hot and is strong and inviting as a result. - Tom Orr - rootsworld


If any band is the personification of tenacity, it has to be Ghorwane, the dance band from Mozambique. They were formed in 1983, just eight years after the southeast African nation was liberated from Portugal. By then, though, the country was embroiled in a civil war that lasted until the 1990s.

As the political situation was resolved, Ghorwane suffered personal setbacks, including deaths within the group. Yet they carried on. Just like their namesake, a small Mozambican lake that never runs dry, Ghorwane's creativity has flowed in the best and worst of times. Even though Ghorwane is an urban band, the group members stay close to their roots, which draw from the rhythms and languages of the ethnicities in Mozambique.

They pull from music such as marrabenta, an urban genre that developed in Maputo and relies on guitar and percussion, and xigubu, a drum-based chant. During the '80s, Ghorwane was known for their sharp political commentary, and state police regularly attended the band's concerts to monitor lyrics. In 1985, though, they received the blessing of Samora Machel, who had led the country to freedom in 1975 and ruled Mozambique until his suspicious 1986 death.

After Machel's death, the group had a harder time, both politically and personally. In 1987, for instance, the government held their visa, making it impossible for them to play at a European music festival. In 1990, though, they were able to participate in the WOMAD music tour. That gig led to a recording contract for 2000's Majurugenta. Then Ghorwane's saxophone player, Jose "Zeca" Alage, was killed shortly before their European tour. The group's leader, Pedro Langa, was murdered in 2001.

The ups and downs took such a toll that some wondered about their survival, but the 2005 release of Vana-Va-Ndota suggests the group may see brighter days. They are truly like their namesake, the lake that never dries. — Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs, Courtesy Global Rhythm Magazine: -


Formed: 1983

In the late `80s and `90s, the group Ghorwane became hugely popular with their Mozambican take on big-band, roots-driven Afropop. Started by Tchika Fernando in the midst of the country's civil war, Ghorwane used horns, guitars, percussion and strong vocal harmonies to adapt local rhythms--xigubu, mapiko, tufu and marabenta. The band was named for a small lake in the Gaza province, famous because no matter how dry the season, it never dries up. The lake is a symbol for the band's ethos of cultural survival, and during the difficult years of war, Ghorwane preserved roots culture with their music and raised spirits with their hopeful and sometimes politically charged lyrics.

In 1991, Ghorwane played at the WOMAD festival and recorded the album Majurugenta for Real World. Then at the height of their popularity in Mozambique, Ghorwane performed the music for a play called "Nambu, a Marrabenta Opera," which told the story of a farming family forced to come to the city during the war. The play featured 20 dancers and 10 musicians and remained a popular attraction in Maputo through the end of the war. Sadly the group's chief composer, Jose "Zeca" Alage, was murdered in 1993 by someone who wanted to steal his new shoes. Ghorwane's lineup had changed somewhat by the time they toured in Europe and recorded a second album, Kudumba, in 1996.

When Afropop visited Mozambique in 1998, the group had become more like a musical collective than a band with a regular lineup. Their infrequent shows remained a draw and a rallying point for champions of roots culture, but Ghorwane's chance at having an international career seemed to have faded. As Mozambiquan music returns to the international stage in the new millennium, young groups always cite Ghorwane as an inspiration. Sadly, the group's leader, Pedro Langa, was murdered in November, 2001. Undaunted, they regrouped and in 2004, produced one of the best albums of their career, Vana Va Ndota.

Contributed by: Banning Eyre -


Majurugenta (Real World 1993)
Não é Preciso Empurrar (Vidisco 1994)
Kudumba (Piranha, 1997)
Vana Va Ndota (Milan Records 2005)




In the hot and dusty Gaza province of Mozambique there is a small lake called Ghorwane that never runs dry, even in the hottest season. In 1983, a group of young musicians in Maputo, took the name Ghorwane as they launched their musical career. Today they are one of Mozambiques most respected bands. Ghorwane chose to base their music on traditional Mozambican rhythms, combined with Afropop and fusion. At the time when most established groups earned a living by imitating foreign artists, this approach came as a stimulating innovation. The injection of life they have shot into the stagnant music scene, and their subsequent success, have inspired other bands to take a similar route.

The band is noted for the political and social criticism in their songs which has put them at loggerheads with the government from time to time. They have mirrored the frustration of their people at the continuing war that was grinding deeper into despair day after day, year after year. The lyrics are sung in African languages of Mozambique, like Changana, Ronga and Chope. The security services often attended their shows with instructions to listen closely to their lyrics. What saved them was that, in 1985 during the festival to celebrate the ten years of independence, Samora Machel (then President of Mozambique) declared that Its prohibited to lie in the Peoples Republic of Mozambique and cites Ghorwane as an example calling them bons rapazes - good guys - which they are called until today by the Mozambican people.