What can I say! FreshlyGround's NOMVULA CD arrived in Tuesday afternoon's mail. Totally beyond my expectations! Nomvula blends African roots with irresistibly catchy pop melodies... I'd seen and heard YouTUBE videos by the group, and I liked the songs. NOMVULA was released back in 2004, fought it's way to the top of the pop charts in SA, moving on to Europe and Asia. Music is (for the most part) so static and stagnant in the USA, NOMVULA sounds as if it was recorded yesterday morning!
It's so hard to DESCRIBE a song or a sound that song makes, but here goes: for me, South Africa's FreshlyGround invoke a myriad of musical memories, from 1970s soul to Sade to Donovan to The Incredible String Band to Malcolm McLaren to Brenda Russel to Jefferson Airplane to Jaci Velasquez. A happy-sad whipped up folk-soul sound that wraps itself around you and reminds you of all those great performers but sounds like none. Flutes, violins, guitars, beats... all there in one splendid recording! FreshlyGround may never grow an audience in the USA, but just as Michael Learns To Rock cranked out hits that rocked the rest of the planet during the 1990's, FG obviously has the capabilities to do the same thing now... and they're doing it!
South African interracial band Freshlyground were "honoured and appreciated" by the world after winning the African category of the MTV European Music Awards last month in Denmark.I was introduced to FreshlyGround's music in October at an internet cafe. Here is a band with the diversity of their nation built into their every note. Freshlyground (I've also seen it as "freshlyground" all lower case) is a 7-piece "ensemble" Afro-Fusion band that was formed in Cape Town. The music is original and energetic with a 'fresh mix' of musical styles and influences - from indigenous African folk music and jazz, to "contemporary" (whatever that is).
Freshlyground's unique sound has attracted scores of listeners across Europe. Speaking to the Saturday Star from Copenhagen, singer Zolani Mahola said winning the award was amazing and exciting.
"We feel very honoured, and to know that so many people voted for us among good African bands is an honour. This means that we are appreciated not only by South Africa, but by the rest of Africa and the world," she said.
Mahola said she hoped for better things for the band in the future and that the award "means we are not only representing South African music but African music, so to win this award is a privilege".
She admitted that when they walked down the red carpet at Thursday's awards ceremony, they "felt a bit intimidated, lots of media wanting to speak to you, and behind you is Rihanna, which can be intimidating. It's something a little out of this world - it's like you are in a movie".
They combine traditional pop instruments such as bass, keys and guitar with the mbira, a traditional African "thumb piano." Plus, they spice up their stage performance with traditional, loosely-choreographed African dance routines.
Freshlyground sing in English and African languages and they have a following that cuts across the "rainbow nation's" racial and cultural divides. Lead singer-songwriter Zolani Mahola says that musically they're equally all over the place, and perhaps that's part of their appeal: Zolani comes from a small town in the Eastern Cape. She sings in either Xhosa or English about the challenges facing modern-day South Africa.
CD REVIEW: 01 I AM THE MAN kicks off the disc with a sound I can only describe as "tropical." Your foot will be tapping to the beat before you know it! 02 NOMVULA is a Xhosa word that means "after the rain". It's also a woman's name. Zolani's mother, Nomvula, died when Zolani was very young. A ballad so tender, it doesn't matter if you don't understand the words. Nice guitarwork, too! 03 MANYANA ... that's as far as I got writing a rigidly formatted track-by-track review... I was called away from the computer, and it's a good thing! I really wasn't into dissecting the CD. After more consideration, I think it's best to say NOMVULA is a great collection of music! Buy the CD at this South African online store. You can find it on Amazon.com as well.
You may not like every song on the disc, but you're money will have been well spent! Doo Bee Doo demonstrates in no uncertain melody why FG won the African category of the MTV European Music Awards! Then there are two favorites of mine, I'd like and Father Please. Then there's Buttercup. I can place the CD in my player and actually enjoyably listen through all 14 tracks! (Usually there's at least a song or two on any CD that I'd skip, but not NOMVULA!!)
The band is said to be in the recording studio at work on their third album. FG's First CD, "Jika Jika" (2002) is now in demand: You can Download a sample if you like! It's suddenly "hard to find." (scratches head) and the tunes I've heard from it are just as good as if not better than those on NOMVULA!
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