Zawose and Brook
Dr Hukwe Zawose was born in Doduma, a rural area of Tanzania, in 1938 and spent his childhood raising cattle. He is now one of Tanzania's foremost traditional musicians. His work is a joyful celebration of his heritage and, dressed in elaborate traditional costumes, his performances are an exotic and delightful spectacle. He performs the music of his people - the Wagogo - a mix of traditional story-based pieces, political celebration songs as well as his own compositions. Apart from an unforgettable voice, Zawose performs an extraordinary array of traditional instruments including the ilimba (thumb piano), izeze (stringed instrument), and harmonic flutes.
Tanzania has a made-to-measure musical ambassador in the person of Dr Hukwe Zawose: educator, instrument builder, cultural conservationist and - most importantly - a charismatic singer and musician of singular abilities who has introduced the music of his people to an international audience. Still, despite two decades of concert performances around the world, Hukwe remained an enthusiasm shared mostly by the inner circle of world music aficionados.
Peter Gabriel, founder of Real World Records, was a Hukwe fan of long standing who felt the time was nigh for Dr Zawose's sound to reach a larger audience. With this goal in mind, he tapped the Canadian producer/instrumentalist Michael Brook to collaborate with Hukwe. The project that Gabriel had in mind would build upon traditional Tanzanian music and Hukwe's unique talents with arrangements and textures that could prove enticing to a broader spectrum of listeners.
Brook was the perfect candidate, a producer of international pedigree and a solo artist whose own recordings (Hybrid, Cobalt Blue) encapsulated both his studio expertise and a deep understanding of non-Western music. Many listeners without such understanding had become fans of artists who had partnered with Brook on Real World albums: the late, legendary Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Mustt Mustt and Night Song) and the Armenian flautist Djivan Gasparyan (Black Rock). Of course, there is no convenient 'East-meets-West' template for such collaborations. Each new project presents a unique set of dilemmas, and the album that united Michael Brook and Hukwe Zawose proved to be no exception. Before it was done, Michael would push both his studio's capabilities and his own creative ingenuity to new extremes.
'Assembly', the result of their combined labours, merges the poetry and grace of Wagogo melodies with science-fiction funk, the shape-shifting sound of a digitally enhanced roadhouse band. Shimmering thumb piano melodies and the many voices of Hukwe - some high-pitched and keening, others of seismic depth and resonance - are woven within dense rhythmic laminates of sternum-shaking beats and insistent grooves, gilded with the signature tone of Brook's own invention, the infinite guitar.
Double CD released December 3rd. Thirty tracks follow the intrepid bikers on their journey south from John O'Groats to South Africa.
Find out more about the artists whose music was specially chosen to feature on the Long Way Down television series, DVD and CD. Read the background to the musicians and buy digital downloads of tracks heard on the series.
Catch up with what is happening to Ewan and Charley episode by episode and trace the music you can hear as the journey unfolds week by week.