In January and February of this year, Mumford and Sons traveled to Africa for a small tour. While they were in Johannesburg, they decided to collaborate and play with African artists. This album, an EP made up of five songs, came out of that collaboration. Although short, the album is a complex blend. The traditional Mumford sound (banjo and kick drum) combines with the other artists’ instrumentation and vocals to take these songs to the next level. This is powerful and moving music.
Perhaps its greatest power is exposing the large Mumford audience to artists who ought to have a larger following. Baaba Maal is Senegal's most well-known singer and guitarist. He brings authentic yearning and joy to his part in this collaboration. The Very Best are based in London but come from Malawi. They fit well in the indie rock genre, and the American rock band Vampire Weekend considers The Very Best an influence on their own music. I highly recommend their hauntingly beautiful song "Hear Me." The pop group Beatenberg is from Cape Town. All of these artists leave their fingerprints on this distinct collaboration.
Most of the lyrics are in Pulaar, Chichewa, and French. The lead track, "There Will Be Time," echoes Ecclesiastes 3, "a time to love/to sing/to leave/to stay/to cry/to live/to love." The songs encompass the theme of romantic love that lasts, rather than fleeting and distracting emotions. For me the highlight is the final song, "Si Tu Veux" which conjures images of the wedding of Christ and his bride, the church, as described in Revelation 21. It has an ethereal, otherworldly quality.
The main takeaway from this album? Go and search out music by Baaba Maal, The Very Best, Beatenberg, and the many other talented African artists who are easily found on the Internet. (Island Records)