Posts Tagged ‘malawi mouse boys’

Top of the World: Malawi Mouse Boys – Dirt is Good

Posted on April 11th, 2014 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


Words by Martin Longley

MalawiMouseBoysDIRTISGOODwpRodents with attitude

Perhaps we can forego debating the tastiness of the mouse-on-a-stick, a Malawi delicacy hawked by this eight-piece combo when they weren’t crafting compulsive folk-pop for their debut 2012 recordings. Theirs is a kind of Afro-reggae gospel, bare-boned and scrappy, using a makeshift deployment of rickety tools to captivating effect. This second album might not be much more than EP-length, but the sweet-voiced Mouse Boys manage to wedge in 15 ditties, including short bursts of clapping and a capella call-and-response.

Frequent bouts of chirpy whistled refrains arrive at strategic points in each of the very short songs. The guitar is often acoustic, powered by dampened strums, but when an amplifier’s engaged, the tone becomes fuzzily abrasive, even if this distortion is comparatively restrained in the mix. Bass lines are pumping, while the percussion is mostly very basic, consisting of finger-clicks, shakers, spoons and sticks chipped on bottles. On ‘Ndikagona’ the prominent foundation sounds like a primitive bowed string instrument augmented with bottle-top resonators, and on ‘Mwazi Wa Jesu’ there is some kind of buzzing Jew’s harp. Even their meatiest numbers are sparse and economical, with ‘Mupulumuke’ keeping to a tantalising 37 seconds, and only the exceptional ‘Mwayenera’ maintaining its chunky bounce for nearly five minutes.

Track to Try: ‘Mwayenera’

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Click here to buy the April/May 2014 (#99) issue of Songlines, or download the free Songlines app from iTunes or Google Play.

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Songlines YouTube Playlist #99

Posted on March 27th, 2014 in News, Recent posts by .


Now that you’ve read all about the music featured in the latest issue of Songlines, don’t forget you can also watch and listen to it on our YouTube playlist, which we compile every issue for your viewing pleasure. You can find the full playlist here.

Here are a few of this issue’s highlights:

Julie Fowlis
Jo Frost chats to Gaelic music’s new poster girl about singing for Disney and the future of Gaelic culture.

Malawi Mouse Boys
Malawi’s rising stars discuss the importance of God, mice and music.

Habib Koité
The Malian singer opens up about his nation’s socio-political reconstruction.

Maurice El Médioni
Max Reinhardt looks back at the multifarious life and career of the legendary Algerian boogie-woogie pianist who will turn 86 this year.

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Introducing… Malawi Mouse Boys

Posted on November 17th, 2013 in Recent posts by .


Jane Cornwell meets the troupe who sell barbecued mice on the streets of Malawi and make beautiful music on the side

There were all the usual epicurean delights on sale at WOMAD Charlton Park this year. But no one, as far as one could tell, was selling barbecued mice kebabs. Indeed, the only likely candidates – an eight-member troupe called the Malawi Mouse Boys – were too busy blowing everyone away with their distinctive three-part harmonies, frills-free guitar and percussion accompaniment. “It was the first time they had been outside Malawi,” says esteemed record producer, Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Lucinda Williams). “Prior to the visit they’d never performed on a stage of any kind, or with any amplification.”

Back in Malawi, on a dusty rural freeway, the band’s members famously earn a living by selling mice-on-sticks to hungry travellers. One such musician, Alfred Gavana, was taking a guitar-break when he was spotted by Brennan, who happened to be driving by.

Musical history is littered with stories of right-place, right-time moments. This one is another. Impressed by Gavana’s high, pure gospel voice, Brennan asked if he could do some recording. When he did, Gavana was there with a band that included lead singer Zondiwe Kachingwe and (unofficially) assorted dogs, chickens and children.

Malawi Mouse Boys performing in a field at WOMAD 2013

The resulting debut album, He is #1, is the first recording ever to receive an international release in the Chichewa language. It has also been hailed as one of 2012’s most uplifting and joyous releases. With songs that recall early ska and dancehall, and vocals not unlike those of South African township gospel, the Mouse Boys praise God (the ‘#1’ of the title) in ways authentic, charming and, well, God-given.

They delivered three sets at WOMAD, their original songs embellished by whistled refrains, ukulele-like guitars, Coke-can thwacking and the clapping and cheering of a crowd giving love to an act on its way to international stardom. “To see them transform into full-blown showmen over the course of just three shows in less than 36 hours was one of the most arresting and beautiful acts of growth I’ve ever personally witnessed,” says Brennan.

He is #1 was the best-selling CD of the entire WOMAD festival,” he adds. “They had to turn people away once the stock ran out. The band said the whole WOMAD experience was life-changing, and a miracle.”

The Malawi Mouse Boys will tour the US and Europe and release a follow-up to He is #1 next year. In the meantime, they will be selling their mice-on-sticks – chicken-flavoured, apparently.


He is #1 was a Top of the World in #85 (July 2012) and their follow-up album is due for release next year

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Malawi Mouse Boys set to release new single ‘Kufana’

Posted on September 12th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

Malawi Mouse Boys 1

Following their extraordinary WOMAD debut, Malawi Mouse Boys release their new single ‘Kufana’ on September 22

Taken from their 2012 debut He is #1, ‘Kufana’ is a hauntingly delightful a capella track and still remains a Songlines favourite.

WOMAD Charlton Park in July marked a pivotal moment in the career of the young musicians. Venturing outside of Malawi for the first time, the barbecued-mice sellers etched their name into WOMAD folklore as a packed Charlie Gillett stage crowd was treated to a highly-energised celebratory performance.

A follow-up to He is #1 is planned for release in 2014 with Grammy award-winning producer Ian Brennan at the helm. Stay tuned for more on the Malawi Mouse Boys in our next issue (November/December 2013 #96, on sale Oct 11).

Watch the boys performing ‘Jesu’, Coke can-cum-woodblock included.

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