28 December 2006

The ZimCali Pop of Chris Berry & Panjea (CD Review)

Chris Berry & Panjea: Dancemakers
(Wrasse Records)
Chris Berry website
Listen To Dancemakers
His press materials shout the unlikely story. Chris Berry is only 23 years old, but has lived and studied mbira and ngoma in Zimbabwe for a decade, and has achieved gwenyambira (master) status. But despite this achievement, he's still a California boy at heart, and pop rules this album, with a little reggae and other seasonings.

The sound is Freshlyground meets Rocker T at a rave in Harare. Fabulous horns, great grooves, and lyrics steeped in social consciousness. It's damn catchy stuff, just don't expect anything sounding like Stella Chiweshe or Thomas Mapfumo (except on "Home" [sample] with its prominent mbira and African-style guitar backing the English and Shona lyrics).

Other highlights include his pointed criticism of capital punishment "Why Do We" [sample] and the crazy-beat title track [sample], as well as the "one-race: human" refrain of "Rock It Down" [sample] Perhaps not traditional "world music," but Berry's got global grooves.
Addendum: Berry's website has complete mp3s available for download of "Why Do We" and "Love on the Mountain"

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