Namvula Review – half Scottish, half Zambian Newcomer is a True Original

The Forge, London


Showcasing her new album, Namvula performed an adventurous and impressive set that blended African styles with jazz


Adventurous and original … Namvula. Photograph: Sian Williams

Adventurous and original … Namvula. Photograph: Sian Williams

Namvula Rennie is a singer-songwriter whose attractively cool, unusual songs reflect her interesting history. Born in Zambia to a Zambian mother and Scottish father, she has lived in Switzerland, Kenya, the US and now London, developing a hybrid style with lyrics that mix Zambian languages with English, Portuguese and French, and musical influences that range from African styles to jazz. She plays acoustic guitar, but works with an impressive backing band that includes African musicians and members of London-based jazz outfit Led Bib.

This can’t have been an easy show for her. Her debut album Shiwezwais not released until next month, and she was previewing the songs without the help of all her usual musicians. There was no kora player and the Ghanaian guitar hero Alfred Bannerman (of Osibisa fame) was unavailable. But none of this seemed to bother her, and she eased through a set that switched from breathy balladry to stomping jazz-rock.

She started quietly, with light, breezy songs influenced by her visits back to Zambia, where she was helped by her aunt Maureen Lilanda, a respected local musician. But the Zambian influences were soon given a cosmopolitan makeover. Maweo, a relaxed and soulful lament sung in Lenje, developed into an upbeat piece dominated by a guitar solo, while Andorinha was treated with the energy of a South African township jive. Her most surprising song, Nandayeya, was written by her aunt and deals with suffering and survival. It started with Namvula singing solo, backed only by her acoustic guitar, showing off her easy, unforced vocal style on a gently soulful ballad that was suddenly transformed as the band crashed in with a jazz-funk workout, featuring saxophone solos from Chris Williams. She sounded even more adventurous playing live than she does on the album – always a crucial test. Namvula is one of the most original newcomers of the year.

Source:Robin Denselow|TheGuardian.com

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