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Album Review

Juanita Euka: Mabanzo

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Juanita Euka: Mabanzo
Juanita Euka is a Congolese vocalist, raised in Buenos Aires, who has recently immersed herself in London's vibrant world music scene. Euka's influences range from soukous, son, and soul to hip hop and jazz. She has fronted top UK Afro-Latin bands, London Afrobeat Collective, Animanz, and Wara, and is also the niece of Congolese rumba legend Franco Luambo. Moving to the UK when she turned fourteen, she joined the Afro-Peruvian band Malambo and immersed herself in London's music scene. After appearing on the BBC's Killing Eve, she has completed her debut solo album for Strut Records, Mabanzo, which translates as 'thoughts.' It was recorded entirely at home studios during the lockdown and painstakingly constructed by producer Greg Sanders. It was her goal to bring her musical heritage into the recordings with the help of Sanders.

Opening with "Alma Seca," the Afro-Cuban sounds reflect the music's tradition, adding elements of today's pop and Latin jazz. Euka's vocals have a sensual overtone, and her notes ring with robust fullness. Sanders' subtle guitar work adds variety, and rhythmic and harmonic colors. His solo is melodic and matches Euka's sensuality. The vocal harmonies are rich as the call and response between the lead and harmonies build the energy and add diversity to the arrangement. Euka successfully brings her varied musical influences into play and delivers a beautiful opening selection.

The energy heightens with the danceable "Nalingi Mobali Te." The horns add textures and colors, with a pure contemporary Congolese guitar figure supporting the feel. Euka's impassioned singing is lilting with Afro-Cuban rhythms. Each section of the song has new elements—instruments, countermelodies, and full horn parts; feel-good music at its best.

Mabanzo introduces a strong vocalist and a winning team with Euka and Sanders. Sanders is the leader and musical director of the jazz-world fusion collective Teotima, which has released two critically acclaimed LPs on First Word Records. His arrangements and production for Congolese-Argentinian singer Juanita Euka is a solid match.

Track Listing

Alma Seca; Mboka Moko; For All It's Worth; Sueños De Libertad; Nalingi Mobali Te; Blood; Baño De Oro; Motema; Camarades; War Is Over; Irresolute; Alma Seca (Acoustic Version).

Personnel

Juanita Euka: voice / vocals; Flora Curzon: violin; Kareem Dayes: cello; Graeme Flowers: trumpet; Kieran McLeod: trombone; Fabio de Oliveira: drums; Ben Assiter: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Greg Sanders: guitar, bass guitar, Cuban acoustic guitar), synthesizer, percussion programming; Chris Williams: Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone; Will Fry: Congas, Bongos, Timbales, Guiro.

Album information

Title: Mabanzo | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Self Produced


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