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Tanzania’s Msafiri Zawose has been one of the biggest slept-on musical forces from the region. That’s changing with the arrival of a new album that redefines the boundaries of gogo music.
Beginning his career at the age of twelve, a charismatic performer, prolific songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Msafiri Zawose is one of the most admired Gogo musicians today.
The Wagogo people are his traditionally nomadic tribe from the center of Tanzania, known for their musicality and made famous by Msafiri’s father, who toured the world as a part of Peter Gabriel’s Real World roster in the 80s and 90s. Working with Santuri East Africa, the much respected platform that has been responsible for some of the most interesting collaborations coming out of East Africa in recent years, the son continues his eminent father’s journey. In August 2016, Santuri traveled to Bagamoyo on the Tanzanian coast with SoundThread’s Sam Jones, whose recent works with Orlando Julius and remixes for Mugwsia International and Sarabi have been rapturously received. Laying down the foundations of the album over two weeks, Zawose and Jones developed a working relationship that was highly charged – their mutual respect for each other’s talents allowing them to work through difficult periods – hewing the raw materials into the hypnotic, revelatory material shared here. The process was never easy, but Msafiri was driven to explore new forms for traditional music, much as his father had with 2002’s experimental collaboration with ambient / electronica producer Michael Brook on the album Assembly. The tracks assembled here have been created within a deeply collaborative process, primarily in person, and then via endless back and forth online between Jones’ studio in London and Zawose’s compound in Bagamoyo. Set to be completed in London in November when Msafiri visits the UK, the music here remains profoundly gogo, but is infused with a organic electronic aesthetic brought about by Jones’ exceptional production and feeling for textures. The tracks give off a borderless feeling, soaking up influences from across the globe – an afro-futurist journey that takes in dub, balearic, ambient and electronic vibrations alongside Zawose’s hypnotic playing and emotive, plaintive vocals.