Muntu Valdo
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Muntu Valdo

Douala, Littoral Region, Cameroon | MAJOR

Douala, Littoral Region, Cameroon | MAJOR
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"Muntu Valdo - Now's The Time"

Of all the artists that I've seen recently the London-based Cameroonian Muntu Valdo is possibly one of the most intriguing...At a recent gig at Jamm in Brixton, he played a quite mesmerising solo set in which he used looping pedals as well as guitar and harmonica to create finely woven tapestries of sound that, with the occaisonally marked afro-Brazilian resonance of the material, came across as an audacious gathering of the spirits of Milton Nascimento and Cleveland Watkiss. - Echoes, Jan 2009


"Muntu Valdo - Hoxton Square Album Launch"

Muntu Valdo took to the stage in great spirits, and captivated the audience immediately with his first track – a bluesy ballad enriched with passion and depth. Judging by how intently the audience listened, while the majority did not speak the language, one can only assume the overall consensus was that each and every person was in awe of how one man could create an orchestra of sound with only a guitar, harmonica and synthesiser.

The second and third tracks were more upbeat, with a catchy guitar riffs, three-part harmonies and loops. At this point there seemed to be some chatter and complacency from some of the audience, but this didn’t phase Valdo, who managed to take control in a positive and laid back fashion, creating some audience interaction with a clapping beat that got everyone to join in and be part of the music – or part of The One & The Many. Once the audience understood that they were part of the music, the atmosphere became far more vibrant, with a carnival-like feel to it. It was clear that Valdo could create a unique sound and was truly talented in terms of writing, playing, singing, arranging and producing – the epitome of a one man band!

The track listing even included an a cappella song entitled, Djongo, that was reminiscent of a prayer, with the meaning behind the song being that of immigration, poverty, and culture. One of the stand out tracks for me was No Mercy, a painfully emotional ballad that caused a hush to sweep through the room. With the use of his synthesiser and expanding armada of pedals at his feel, the sound of a string quartet was somehow created. The words ‘no mercy’ were sang in English, which allowed a call and response effect to be created with the audience. This became a common theme throughout the remainder of the songs, although the audience sounded more like a festival mob, compared to Valdo’s effortlessly smooth and passionate voice.

As we neared the end of the performance, Muntu asked the crowd if they were ‘ready to dance’, and with that, he was joined on stage with a band compiling of a trumpet player, saxophonist, bongo drummer, bass player and drummer. An instant buzz filled the room, and the party really got started! Musseing and Lemba were the tracks performed by Muntu and his band, each with an Afro beat and funk sound to them, which got everyone dancing and clapping along. It was clear that the carnival had well and truly come to Hoxton! - My Village, April 2011


"One Man Band"

A few years ago the London-based Cameroonian held an audience at Jamm in Brixton spellbound as he proceeded to knit together four-part harmonies, basslines, harmonica licks, guitar figures and percussion phrases into a mini-orchestra thanks to one console that he worked assiduously with his own two feet.

That attention to detail shown on stage has effectively translated to the studio on Valdo's new recording "The One & The Many" a gorgeous collection of songs where heavenly, feathery melody is wrapped up in miniature tapestry of sounds produced by Valdo with the aid of the afor mentioned kit. He is like an actor playing many parts. - Echoes, May 2011


"The Prince of Sawa Blues - Muntu Valdo"

Muntu Valdo has wowed audiences with his one man band style. By creatively using technology to loop and manipulate his sound, he creates the illusion of being the visible member of an otherwise invisible band. - Songlines (May 2011)


"Muntu Valdo - Queen Elisabeth Hall, London"

The crowd were treated to Muntu Valdo's guitar magic. Sauntering on stage with a springy step, softly picking at his guitar and blowing in his harmonica, he resembled a youthful, latter-day Bob Dylan. But his music is from a different stream. Using a box of tricks to double-track his guitar and voice live, he added layers of sound to create full-textured, soft songs about peace, love and Cameroonian witchcraft and charmed the audience. - THE FINANCIAL TIMES (MARK ESPINER) - 30 MAY 2007


"Muntu Valdo: The One & the Many ****"

Muntu Valdo is a literal one-man band, providing all the singing and playing every instrument from guitar to harmonica, like a Cameroonian Phil Collins. The comparison half fits his anguished, betrayed lyrics wrapped in lushly summery tunes, never more than on “Ate Aye”.

The water calabash splashes like a river, and crickets punctuate “Djongo”’s massed chorus. “Timba” is lolloping country ‘n’ west African. - The Financial Times, 8th April 2011


"Muntu Valdo: The One and the Many, CD review ***"

Backing his sensitive guitar playing and dreamy, voice with distinctively textured, self-created loops and rhythms, London-based, Cameroonian one-man band Valdo translates a compelling live sound successfully to disc. The best tracks have an airy, poetic feel that’s a bit Brazilian, a bit Cape Verdean, while keeping a toe in the world of international busking folk. - The Telegraph, 8th April 2011


"Muntu Valdo: The One & the Many ***"

Is now the time for the Cameroon-born singer? It could be: a British tour with Ladysmith Black Mambazo should have enough people talking about him to make this one-man band's second album a word of mouth hit. Using loops he builds nifty rhythm tracks (try the irrestible Timba) over which he plays a mean guitar and harmonica, all topped off with a fine voice and just a hint of grit. - The Times, April 8th 2011


Discography

The One & The Many (Warner - 2011)

Gods & Devils (Sawa Blues - 2005)

Photos

Bio

Muntu Valdo belongs to the Sawa community who populate the length of Cameroon’s coastline along the Golf of Guinea. His father is from the small village of Dibombari, 30km west of Douala, his mother from the Malimba Islands out in the Atlantic Ocean, famous for their oysters. Muntu then is a Sawa, a child of the coast, a child of the mangroves and of the water, a child whose birth was hailed and blessed by the « Miengu » (mermaids) who are known to protect or destruct people and populations depending on their humour. Eighty kilometres east of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon and its most densely populated city, is the town of Edea. It’s here, inside his grandmother’s small house perched on the banks of Cameroon’s longest river, The Sanaga, that Muntu was born. As a young boy his nickname was Muutu (from “Muut’esucudu” which translates as “good student”), because of the exceptional ease with which he could memorise and recite stories and legends. With time Muutu will become Muntu.

It was at the age of 8yrs old, sat under a huge mango tree in the ‘Cité Verte’ of Yaoundé that Muntu played his first notes on an old, three-stringed guitar made of plasterboard and fishing wire. These enormous trees, which transform patches of wasteland into shady clearings perfect for football, were Muntu’s favourite hangout and would fuel his two passions: football and guitar. At this stage of the early eighties, television had yet to arrive in Cameroon and cinema and videos were a luxury reserved only for the few. Radio and newspapers were the only medias readily available and for many kids in the working class quarters of Yaoundé, much of their time was spent wandering the streets looking for mischief. It is Muntu’s love for music and sport that would help keep him out of trouble and prevent him getting up to no good.

With Muntu’s adolescence came the arrival of the television and Internet. During this period his passion for music was cultivated via school concerts and competitions and his enthusiasm for football fired by the success of the “Indomitable Lions” and of Roger Milla, the most famous African footballer of all time! In Douala and Yaoundé, this era also heralded a rapid mushrooming of shantytowns, as more and more people began to leave their villages looking for a more prosperous life in the city. Both cities began to expose an increasingly fractured urbanism, their vast colonial avenues, now riddled with pot holes, rubbing shoulders with alternately dust ridden or mud entrenched (depending on the season) roads, markets and working class quarters. The absence of public transport and traffic lights, the endless traffic jams and clouds of fumes pumped into the air by battered old cars and moto-taxis, a constant honking of horns mixed with the overlapping beats of music booming out from the multiple bars lining the streets, all came together to create a chaotic yet exuberant and eccentric ambiance.
It’s the early nineties and Muntu, the oldest of four brothers is preparing to start university. It’s amidst a climate of huge incertitude, punctuated by political upheavals and shaken by the winds of a democracy imposed by the old colonial powers of the West, that we find Muntu, studying Law at the University of Yaoundé. Across Africa, nations, who had lived under the oppressive regime of dictators and unique party systems, left to do as they pleased for over 30 years, are crying out for democracy. In Yaoundé student marches and demonstrations took over the city, but were quickly and violently repressed by the state. Some died and many were injured, including Muntu, who was severely beaten by the military. Bed ridden for several weeks, Muntu returned to live with his parents in Douala. They forbade him from returning to university, which they believed had nearly cost him his life. After a year spent recovering from his injuries and giving the odd after school lesson to kids here and there, Muntu secretly went back to university in Douala. He threw himself into the study of linguistics and history, notably that of Africa and ancient Egypt.

This period played a key role in Muntu’s musical development. His vast readings enabled him to discover the many spiritual masters who still guide him today, transforming him from the child “Muutu” that he was, into the man “Muntu” that he is today. From Cheik Anta Diop to Kwame Nkrumah, via Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Gandi, Jesus Christ, Ari-Krishna, Mahomet, Omram Aïvanov, Mohamed Ali or Thomas Sankara, Muntu started to build the illusive, calm, nonchalant and meditative personality that defines him today. During this period, whilst playing with the Douala University Orchestra, he also met the musician Eko Roosevelt who took him on as guitarist in his Big Band. This new opportunity gave Muntu his first experience as a professional musician, enabling him to tour and to accompany many of Cameroon’s top vocalists including Bébé Manga, André-Marie Tala, Annie Disco, Beko