Namvula Rennie – Shiwezwa

Heritage is a funny thing, sometimes it can be a cloying mess of inhibitions and baggage that almost forces the artist into a pattern of production that can be difficult to break out of.

In the case of Namvula Rennie her exotic mix of Kenyan, Swiss, Zambian and Scottish roots infuse her music with a variety and zest that fairly takes the breath.

Sitting and writing on a dark, wet November morning, the hugely impressive debut Shiwezwa from Namvula Rennie is the perfect antidote, filled as it is with a tesco bag for life full of African sunshine.

Now my regular reader will know that languages aren't really my strong point and reviewing an album that features tracks that includes songs in French, Portuguese, Chichewa, Lenje and a teeny bit of English is something of a challenge. Unfortunately I was away the day we did Lenje at school.

That having been said if the songs in other languages are crafted as well as 'Old man' (no it's not about me) then listeners need have no worries as track 6, and the most Western sounding of the offering gives us a wonderfully evocative and emotional  storyline. Old man also allows the listener to experience the undoubted vocal talent of Rennie as the track starts very simply and builds later. For this writer it stays on the right side of jazz - just. I'm loving the production on this.

Sometimes you just fancy something a little bit different and this album has that in spades, From the spanish guitar influenced 'Na Ndayeya' to the more traditional sounding 'Mukwesu'  the collection refuses to sit in a particular pigeonhole and simply titling it 'world music' doesn't really do it justice.

This disc includes tracks that have at their heart the sun and optimism of Africa and 'Umoyo Wanga' gives us this whilst 'Africa' and 'sign of the times' provide a wonderfully sweeping soundtrack but with some very thought provoking lyrics too.

I find you can choose to put this album on as very pleasing background or sit and listen properly with furrowed brow. Either way this is an evocative, joyous and challenging outing for Namvula.

Personal favourite tracks have to be Mukweso and Maweo but with such a diverse selection you'll have to make your own mind up.

Shiwezwa is released on November 3rd with a kick off show and I dare say after party at The Old Queens Head in that there London, but Dorset listeners have a treat in store as the launch tour features three dates nearby courtesy of artsreach with Namvula appearing at Winterbourne Stickland, Evershot and Studland on 7th, 8th and 9th of November respectively.

I'd suggest making the trip as she's worth seeing.

Namvula Rennies' site is here and that's worth a visit too

and you can find more details of the artsreach programme at

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