Ghorwane and Kouyate delight audiences
10 May 2018 MUSIC
By Tymon Smith
There are so many varied and rich musical traditions and expressions on the African continent provided by artists who work within the histories and techniques of their own countries while creating universally appreciated sounds that speak to the issues facing them. The work and sounds of Mozambique’s pioneering world music stars Ghorwane and the trailblazing Kora playing of Guinea’s Sekou Kouyate provide very different musical expression but share a commitment to reflection and expression of their environments. Both Ghorwane and Kouyate are celebrated, international success stories on the world music scene and their appearances at this year’s Bassline Fest are sure to cement their reputations and provide plenty of wonder and delight to audiences.
Formed in 1983, Ghorwane took their name from a lake in the Gaza province of Mozambique that is known for never running dry. Working in the Mozambican tradition of marabente, Ghorwane sing in local languages and combine traditional musical styles with elements of Afropop and fusion to sing about the issues facing their countrymen. Their political approach attracted negative attention from the authorities almost from the start but they were saved by former President Samora Machel who declared, “It’s prohibited to lie in the People’s Republic of Mozambique,” citing Ghorwane as an example calling them bons rapazes – good guys – a name by which they’re still known in the country.
Throughout the late ’80s and ’90,s Ghorwane’s music reflected the horrors of the war raging in their native land. Their music found international success when they were invited to play WOMAD by Peter Gabriel. Since the end of the war, they’ve continued to reflect on the new challenges facing Mozambique and become a favourite at festivals across the globe. In the year of the centenary of Nelson Mandela, the band’s relationship to their homeland and Samora Machel makes them a fitting part of this year’s Bassline Fest.
Often described as the Jimi Hendrix of the Kora, Guinea’s Sekou Kouyate is an innovator whose abilities are the result of his emergence from a long and respected line of 70 generations of players of the Kora. At age 12, Kouyate had the idea of amplifying his instrument and bringing its sound into the modern era. Changing the game for the standards of West African music and one of its most beloved sounds. For almost two decades Kouyate has established himself as one of the region’s most inventive and eclectic artists – bringing his love of soul, funk and blues to his kora playing and freewheeling live performances. He’s collaborated with artists from all over and played audiences across the world. As an innovator and experimenter who respects and continues to promote a proud tradition, you’d find it hard to argue against his inclusion in a festival like Bassline Fest, which seeks to promote unity, cultural collaboration and the spirit of Nelson Mandela.
*The Bassline Fest takes place at Constitution Hill on Saturday May 26.