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"Massukos, Bumping"

In Africa, as in Brazil, it seems that idealism and great music go together with ease. After the recent shows by AfroReggae, those musical social workers from Rio, here's a glorious band from Mozambique who spend much of their time involved with sanitation and HIV projects, but still manage to be some of the most uplifting musicians in the country. Massukos play light, chiming guitar-pop, like a more easy-going and soulful answer to that great 1980s band the Bhundu Boys, from Zimbabwe. There's nothing amazingly unusual about their songs, except that they are tight, infectious and charming. The album sneaks up on you with light, gently driving songs such as Muamwali that deserve to become dance floor favourites. I suspect their appearances at Womad will be even better.

Robin Denselow
Friday July 6, 2007 - The Guardian

"Massukos, Bumping"

Independent, (outstanding)
The drummer seems set on taking his snare by surprise, the keyboard player loves the warm wash of the Hammond, and on "Ndjango" the guitarist packs a Costello punch circa "Watching the Detectives". This great band – already big at home in Mozambique – are a joy live, as you may have experienced last weekend at WOMAD. But this infectious album feels live anyway, in that it captures the apparently effortless interaction between the musicians and conveys the fun they are having. Bright, sun-drenched music with enough edge to keep your mind as well as your feet engaged. Howard Male. Sunday 5 August, 2007 - Independent on Sunday

"Music with a message: now wash your hands"

The summer of 2005 started gloriously for the members of Massukos. They were championed by Charlie Gillett on BBC Radio London. They performed in venues from the Ritzy in Brixton to the British Museum. They played in front of 100,000 people at an Edinburgh rally for Make Poverty History. They met Gordon Brown and Bob Geldof. They delivered a petition to Downing Street.

Days later, they boarded the London Eye. Moments later, the Eye was surrounded by armed police. The band, who had lived through 17 years of civil war in Mozambique, were terrified. The police’s arrival turned out to be a response to the July 7 bombings. “They hoped they’d got away from all that,” says Chris Smallwood, from UK band Empty Boat, who have toured with Massukos. “Suddenly, it all caught up with them.”

Massukos was conceived as a way to preserve and communicate the rhythms and culture of Niassa, the band’s home province in northern Mozambique. They sing in Yao, Nyanga and Makua. “We are close to Malawi and Tanzania,” says Feliciano dos Santos, the band’s leader and co-founder. “That traditional sound of Niassa, you can hear it in Malawian music.”

Santos became increasingly involved in campaigning for public health. He founded the development agency Estamos, a partner of WaterAid. “I give most of my time to that job. Maybe 80 per cent of my time is that, planning. But 20 per cent of the time is music, using music to concentrate people’s minds on health, on water, on HIV/Aids.” Over time, the focus of this campaigning has shifted. “When we started, cholera was a big problem. But in a way, [securing supplies of] water has been achieved. At this time, HIV is the most important thing. When people are HIV-positive, they get ill with diarrhoea, malaria, all opportunistic diseases.”

Santos is known to his fans as the Elton John of Mozambique. Massukos’s first album, recorded on relatively primitive technology, still sold 80,000 copies worldwide and went gold in Mozambique, where they were voted best band. Santos uses this renown to a purpose. “With the music, I became famous. I use my image to raise awareness.” He gestures to the field of people at the Womad festival waiting to hear his band. “A lot of people have been drawn here because of music. In Mozambique, it’s the same. When politicians campaign, they use music to concentrate people together and get them to listen to a message.”

When Massukos toured Mozambique in 2004 with musicians from Empty Boat, the theme of the tour was “Lave as maos, tenha boa saude” (Wash your hands, have good health). Chris Smallwood points out that simple handwashing can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by 40 per cent. “Massukos,” says Smallwood, “are using the power of music to initiate social change. When we toured with them, we went out to the bush in a truck, we sat with the elders. We saw how music builds trust and community.”

The tour also featured Alongo, a local non-governmental organisation that uses dance and theatre to transmit public health messages. “They show people how to use latrines and when traditional healers are good but also when you really need to go to a doctor in a white coat.”

During their last visit to the UK, Massukos recorded an album in London with guest spots from British jazz musicians. Bumping is full of summery music, with high chiming guitars and bubbly reggaefied keyboards. The production is glossy and assured. On Niassa, all the local rhythms Santos talks about can be heard under an anthemic chorus.

The CD has just been released and the band are trying to promote it. But visa problems have made the trip difficult, forcing them them to miss one London appearance. Smallwood is spitting mad. “The British government spends time trumpeting about how much money we make from music; the development secretary wants to build up trade – music could be a great part of that, but it’s being thwarted. It’s ridiculous. We posted bonds, we gave guarantees, everything. None of these guys want to stay here, their homes are in Mozambique.”

In the west, Massukos are still sending messages but subtly different ones: they want to remind audiences that Africans are still alive and are present everywhere. “Five years ago,” says Santos, “Mozambique was the poorest country in the world. And we’re from Niassa, the poorest part of Mozambique. So if we can be here, that indicates that Mozambique is growing. I have had some influence. Niassa was a forgotten place. Now it isn’t.”

‘Bumping’ is out now on Poo Productions

By David Honigmann

Published: August 17 2007 15:47 - Financial Times


Massukos is more than a band – it’s a living breathing force for good in Mozambique – and Bumping is a jubilant, uplifting musical torch bearer for one of the poorest parts of Africa.

Hailing from the Niassa province, lead singer and guitarist Feliciano dos Santos combines his day job as director of the NGO Estamos (dedicated to clean water and decent sanitation) with that of spreading his message via the dance-friendly rhythms preserved through this exuberant modern take on the traditional music of the area.

These aren’t worthy but dull socially-aware songs, nor is the music reverently preserved in aspic. It’s all ebullient, bubbly stuff, with dos Santos’s rhythm guitar dovetailing with electric guitar, bass, sparky percussion, fluid waves of organ from Carlos Alvaro Socrates and colourful interjections from a brass section comprising guest jazz musicians Harry Beckett, Steve Buckley and Dean Brodrick.

‘Mudacia Wana’ gets the album off to a rousing start, with its subtle dance beat, gorgeous call and response harmonies, mellifluous guitar and subtle overlays of keyboard. And there’s some nice, chunky ska-style electric guitar on the next track, ’ Ndjango’. It continues in this bright, inventive vein throughout, each track as alluring as the next while remaining unique enough to keep things interesting - whether it be the raunchy, bass-driven title-track, the sing-along sweetness of ‘Ntolilo’ or any of the other slight, subtle shifts of tone. Only the ballad ‘Pangira’ lowers the temperature, and it jars slightly in the context of this suite of songs, its acoustic, unplugged reprise at the end of the CD being a more natural way of bringing the mood down.

But that very slight reservation apart, if the remaining nine shots of inspirational musical optimism are anything to go by, Massukos are one of the must-see acts at this year’s WOMAD festival at Charlton Park. If you can’t make that event, fear not because this album has the power to bring sunshine and hope wherever it is played. Conon Murphy. Thursday 5 July 2007 - Fly Global Music Culture


Mozambique, the former Portuguese colony, was devastated by decades of civil war between CIA and Soviet financed armies, which eventually ended in 1992. As the nation slowly rebuilds its once thriving music scene is returning to life and Massukos are the most prominent example of how exciting this vibrant country can be.

The 11 songs here demonstrate how the seven member band can mix jazz and Portuguese influences with strong Afro-grooves that means this CD more than lives up to its title of Bumping. Just try not to dance around the room when the title track and Ndjango are playing.

Bandleader Feliciano dos Santos works by day as a director of a non-governmental organisation aimed at helping some of Africa's poorest people. That he finds the time to lead Massukos and make such startling music is inspirational. From Mozambique to Womad and beyond, Massukos are a band on the rise. Garth Cartwright - HMV Choice

"An overview of what people have said..."

“I'm a lucky man to sit in front of music like this” Charlie Gillett

“A fantastic band” Michael Eavis

“This great band are a joy live” Howard Male, The Independent

“Massukos are... a living breathing force for good in Mozambique” Conon Murphy, Fly Global Music Culture

“Harnessing their popularity to fight poverty, Massukos make music that is not only phenomenally beautiful but also a powerful force for change” Rita Ray, Africa on Your Street

“inspirational musical optimism... this album has the power to bring
sunshine and hope wherever it is played” Conon Murphy, Fly Global Music Culture

“a glorious band from Mozambique... infectious and charming” **** Robin Denselow, The Guardian

“Bright sun-drenched music with enough edge to keep your mind as well as your feet engaged” (outstanding) Howard Male, The Independent

“It's an excellent album. A big Radio 3 YES to Massukos of Mozambique” Andy Kershaw

“sheer joy... a glorious showing” Tom Bullough, Songlines (nominated Top of the World album)

"If this music, highly dramatic and ceaselessly danceable, is the Mozambiquan tradition Massukos meant to save, you can only say thank you." The Independent, June 2008

"They deserve to be Africa's next big musical export." Time Out

"oh my, how sweet the sounds that greeted my ears... beautifully structured and rhythmically alive..."
World Music Central - General


Mozambique's Massukos make uplifting dance music out of serious issues. Con Murphy gets the message.

A pop band that uses music to spread a message promoting clean water, decent sanitation and Aids-awareness must be filed under the heading 'worthy but dull', right? Not so in the case of Massukos, the exuberantly catchy force for good and uplifting musical torch-bearer for one of the poorest parts of Africa. Situated in the north of the country, Niassa is Mozambique's most sparsely populated province, with a population of about one million spread over an area roughly the size of England. For many years, it has also been the poorest, ravaged by civil war, Aids and water sanitation problems.
Enter one Feliciano dos Santos, a journalist working for Radio Mozambique in the early '90s, reporting on the country's attempts to get back on its feet as peace took tentative hold in the region. Feliciano: "We were producing programmes that talked about social problems, water sanitation, that kind of thing. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to get more involved in what we were reporting about."
In dos Santos's world - where he has spent most of his life dealing with the physical constraints caused by a childhood bout of polio - practicalities are addressed head on, so involvement led to the founding of the Estamos NGO in 1996, where he set about introducing an integrated water supply and improved sanitation, as well as home-based care for people with HIV. "I'd say about 80% of my time is spent on Estamos projects. As director of Estamos I'm busy working in the office most of the time, planning and running projects. Then we go out and use music at the time we want to spread the message. The rest of the band members also work for Estamos or on other social programmes."
The medium for the message is a sunny, effervescent guitar-based music, a kind of soulful, socially-conscious equivalent of Zimbabwe's Bhundu Boys, augmented by keyboards and with a dance-friendly rhythm based on the traditional music of the Niassa area. "When the civil war finished [in 1992], we wondered how we could celebrate people's feeling of relief at surviving, and their return from Malawi and Tanzania where they had been refugees. So, we decided we needed to record our culture, to get our traditional sound back, putting it with electronic instruments to give it the power to get our message across."
Massukos was formed in 1994, and after becoming popular in Niassa, they recorded their first album, Kuimba Kwa Massuko, in Maputo in 2002. "That was because there were no decent studios in Niassa," explains dos Santos. "And despite travelling 2,000 kilometres to record the album, we didn't realise our music would be so popular, we were not even fully professional. But the album spread all over Mozambique - it just took off like crazy, and now we're one of the best-selling bands in the country."
In 2004, British musician Dean Brodrick's band Empty Boat toured Africa as part of Poo Productions, a London-based media company dedicated to promoting clean water in Africa. Feliciano: "The Empty Boat project came to Niassa, and we worked really well together. Dean suggested that we record an album in the UK, with him as co-producer. There is good recording quality in some studios in Maputo," explains dos Santos, "but in London we found acoustics to fit the more universal sound that we were looking for." Anybody who witnessed the breezy performance by Massukos at this year's mud-caked Womad festival at Charlton Park will find the resultant album, the aptly-titled Bumping, to be a satisfyingly upbeat reflection of the band's appealing live sound, with added funky brass interjections by Brodrick's jazz musician friends Harry Beckett and Steve Buckley.
I wonder how Massukos reconcile their resolutely cheery approach with the serious subject matter of the songs. "Sometimes a message is too shocking for people to take in at first," he replies. "We are talking about serious social themes, but we invite people to dance first, we try to win people over to the music, then they'll get the message later. Plus, there are more than twenty languages in Mozambique, so we have to communicate first through the music!"
And with something over 80,000 copies of Bumping already sold in their native country, Massukos are clearly communicating very successfully, inevitably attracting the interest of politicians and other public figures (such as Gordon Brown and Sir Bob Geldof) who are keen to be seen showing an interest in Africans' welfare. Feliciano remains admirably diplomatic about such image-enhancing meetings. "The people we meet are generally open and willing to hear the issues we have, and what we do about them. But I can't do anything else but just tell them the way things are and what we are doing about it - it's up to them to decide what they do next." Welcome to the new, pragmatic face of African activism. With guitars.,
- fRoots


One of the great frustrations for the fan of Mozambican music is that there are so few decent recordings available. Since the end of the civil war 15 years ago, Mozambique’s explosion of creative talent has far outstripped the capacity of its music industry, and it is a delight to hear any album that reflects the irresistible optimism of the country’s live scene. In Mozambique, Massukos have long been stars. They are the pre-eminent group of the northern Niassa province and their first album, 2001’s Kuimba Kwa Massuko, sold 80,000 copies. But even this hardly prepares you for the sheer joy of Bumping, their first international release.

Right from the start, Bumping is all about momentum. It kicks off with the instantly catchy, reggae-flavoured groove of ‘Mudacia Wana’, and maintains the tempo through traditional drums-and-voices numbers like ‘Akwekwe’ and the horn-fuelled marrabenta of ‘Niassa’. It is a sign of the band’s self-confidence that their more traditional material is every bit as exciting as their guitar-led Afro-pop, and their unerring instincts are confirmed on the genuinely moving ‘Pangira’, their one tear-jerker.

The only problem is that half of these songs already appeared on Kuimba Kwa Massuko. True, the production and the performances here are incomparably better, but after six years you might have hoped for a bit more new material. Still, this is a glorious showing, and you can only hope that Massukos have another album coming out soon.

Tom Bullough - Songlines


"Lithe, shimmering grooves made for a WOMAD Saturday afternoon.

Released in the UK, just a couple of weeks ago, Bumping is an irresistible charmer of a record, one that can leave no limb unmoved. And don't just take our word for it. this nation's musical taste-makers have been queuing up to lavish praise upon the seven-piece, among them Andy Kershaw, Charlie Gillett and the recently anointed Michael Eavis CBE. And not only do Massukos lay down the sunniest grooves imaginable, they're also know for their humanitarian work back home and for telling the rest of the world how it is in post-colonial Mozambique. Come show your support for one of Africa's poorest countries – and do so through the medium of a little booty-shaking.
- WOMAD 2007

"The Elton John of Mozambique believes in the power of water"

His legions of fans call him Mozambique's Elton John.But while the British pop idol uses his clout in the global entertainment industry to raise funds for his Aids foundation, Feliciano dos Santos is campaigning in his native land for the basic necessities of life.

His legions of fans call him Mozambique's Elton John.But while the British pop idol uses his clout in the global entertainment industry to raise funds for his Aids foundation, Feliciano dos Santos is campaigning in his native land for the basic necessities of life.

Dos Santos, a musician disabled by polio who learned to play a makeshift banjo guitar in an African slum, wants to help transform his community so nobody else suffers what he went through. He endured a gruelling childhood with no clean water and proper sanitation. "Music has the power to change people," he says in his office in Lichinga, the capital of Niassa province battered by nearly two decades of civil war. "We use our music to raise awareness about sanitation, water, hygiene and HIV Aids. We believe people take our message seriously. Because of our lyrics, we have been able to influence their behaviour. At least, that's what they tell us."

African musicians normally struggle for success on a continent where scarce resources are better spent on bread and butter than buying CDs. But when Dos Santos performs, fans walk miles to catch a glimpse of him and his group, Massukos. The latest offering of Dos Santos and his band, Kuimba kwa Massuko, won a gold disc for selling 30,000 copies in a few days, and has now notched up record sales in his homeland with 80,000 copies sold. The album has captivated international audiences, and won the international prize for water at the Cannes Water Symposium, in France last year, in recognition of its lyrics.

One song called "Wash your hands" underscores the importance of clean water, good sanitation and hygiene as central to economic development.

"If you haven't soap to wash your hands [after relieving yourself] you can use ash," say the lyrics. "Don't shake another's hand with your dirty one."

In another song with a rhumba rhythm, Dos Santos says: "If you have clean water and proper sanitation, you can live long. Even if you get Aids, you can still cheat death and survive. Sanitation is good and can change your life."

Dos Santos says the message he wants to hammer home through his music is that better hygiene through proper sanitation and water means better health for all in the community. This means stronger people who can work to grow crops for the community which can be sold to pay for medicines and for school fees and uniforms.

It means a healthy community which can fetch bamboo and grass from the bush to build houses. "It means much more than a poor, unhealthy and weak community suffering from malnutrition can achieve," he says.

To complement the music, Dos Santos and two members of Massukos are part of Estamos, a non-governmental organisation and partner for the charity WaterAid, which builds pit latrines for Niassa's poor, and protected wells for clean water.

The community decides on the design of its pit latrines and Estamos helps with contributions to install them. "But we also have to change the minds and behaviour of people," Dos Santos says. Installing a protected well for people who for some traditional reason prefer to drink from a river, or a "sacred" but dirty swamp will not help. They have to show those people there is a direct link between drinking dirty water and certain diseases.

With a budget of $600,000 (£311,000) a year, Estamos has helped build more than 500 pit latrines and 250 protected wells in Niassa since 2000, to try to provide proper sanitation and clean water for almost a million people in the province. But the struggle is a long way from being won. Although Mozambique is a largely fertile country six times bigger than the UK, it remains among the poorest countries in the world.

Most African musicians who have done well, tend to head for the comfort of European capitals where the music industry is well developed. Brussels and Paris are even nicknamed the "capitals of Kwasa Kwasa" in African music circles because of the many central and West African musicians who have migrated there to spread the popular African Kwasa Kwasa beat.

But Dos Santos, 40, wants to spend his life in Niassa, the poorest of the 11 provinces of Mozambique, where the average life expectancy is only 39 years. Through his music, Dos Santos is also drawing the attention of central government to the worst poverty-stricken areas. He believes the government can do much more, in building roads and providing water and sanitation, although most of its budget is donor-funded. In one song, Dos Santos laments the attitude of politicians who forget the poverty of their home areas after they reach the relative comfort of the capital, Maputo. He implores them to use their positions to get more resources for the poores - Independent


Kuimba kwa Massuko
- released 2002
- won gold disc in 2003

Bumping (2007);
- #1 in Top10 RDP-África
- #6 in European World Music Charts (Sep 07)

Radio Airplay in the UK includes:
- BBC 5 Live
- BBC 4
- BBC London
- BBC Radio 3
- BBC Radio Foyle
- BBC Radio Scotland
- BBC Special Overseas Service
- BBC World Service
- SOAS/Resonance FM
- BBC Three Counties Radio

Radio Airplay in Europe includes:
- National Danish Broadcasting Corporation
- ORF Radio Austria
- Cronicas da Terra, Portugal
- Radio Multikulti, Germany
- RDP Africa
- Deutschland Radio Kultur
- NatGeo, Italy
- Radio France International

Radio Airplay in US includes:
- Africamix, KALW
- Echoes of Africa, KKUP
- The Best Ambiance, KEXP



Massukos have an enviable reputation as Mozambique’s most successful band; their debut album sold 80,000 and their second album Bumping went to #6 in the European World Music Charts and #1 on RDP Africa, Portugal. Offering a unique and uplifting blend of traditional sounds from Mozambique, Massukos' music has been aptly described as “musical sunshine – life-giving, happy music that makes you want to dance”.

The band are considered national treasures in their native country, renowned both for their stunning music and the humanitarian work that they do. By day, the leader of Massukos, Feliciano dos Santos, is the director and founder of the NGO Estamos (a WaterAid partner); by night he is the guitarist of Mozambique’s most revered band. An inspirational leader, Santos is affectionately known by his many fans as “the Elton John of Mozambique” and was recently recognized for his leading role in campaigning for better public health by being awarded the world's largest environmental prize for grassroots activists. He was awarded the Goldman Environmental Award (April 08), which is largely regarded as "the Nobel Prize for the environment".

Originating from Niassa in northern Mozambique, one of the poorest parts of Africa, the band use their high profile to initiate social change. They are passionate about their development work and regularly travel for miles to remote villages to deliver life-saving messages about hygiene, sanitation and HIV/AIDS.

With rave reviews from the UK press and tour dates that include WOMAD (2007) and Glastonbury (2008), the band's success story looks set to continue.

"They deserve to be Africa's next big musical export." Time Out

"This great band.. are a joy live... Bright sun-drenched music with enough edge to keep your mind as well as your feet engaged" (outstanding) The Independent

"a glorious band from Mozambique... infectious and charming **** The Guardian

"I'm a lucky man to sit in front of music like this" Charlie Gillett

"excellent... A big Radio 3 YES to Massukos of Mozambique" Andy Kershaw

"fantastic" Michael Eavis NME

"Massukos, the exuberantly catchy force for good and uplifting musical torch-bearer for one of the poorest parts of Africa" fRoots

"sheer joy" Songlines

"inspirational musical optimism... [music that] has the power to bring sunshine and hope wherever it is played" Fly Global Music Culture

"oh my, how sweet the sounds that greeted my ears... [their music is] beautifully structured and rhythmically alive" World Music Central

"Harnessing their popularity to fight poverty, Massukos make music that is not only phenomenally beautiful but also a powerful force for change” Rita Ray