EP review: Anwar Ali and Dave Owen – Mchanga Mweupe
Artists – Anwar Ali and Dave Owen
EP – Mchanga Mweupe
Release date – June 2017
Reviewer – Paul Clark
It could have been the glorious weather, but from the first listen, this is a collection of songs that had me captivated from the start.
Anwar Ali and Dave Owen’s coming together is a great story, but on the evidence of the five-track debut release Mchanga Mweupe, this is more than just an interesting tale.
A chance meeting in Liverpool’s Zanzbar Club has led to a partnership that promises so much. Owen, hails from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire and Ali, moved to the UK as a refugee from Bajuni Islands, a tropical area from coast of east Africa, have brought together a mix of influences that defies being pigeonholed.
Google Translate tells me that Mchanga Mweupe is Swahili for White Sand (hopefully that’s correct) and listening to this certainly evokes imagery of a homeland that Ali is clearly reminiscing about.
The album is sparsely arranged and it is the better for that. Anyone who captured the duo’s performance at Africa Oye will find much to like about these songs.
The album recorded in Liverpool, is acoustic and unadorned; it feels like a raw live performance. It resonates with a mix of the exotic and the familiar, with Ali’s oud, and Owen’s British folk guitar sounding harmonious.
Suhuba Yadai is the opener and sets the tone for the EP and it’s a song that builds slowly to an infectious riff that highlights the potency of their stripped-down-sound.
The all-familiar Bo Diddley beat runs throughout Yalaiti, with Ali’s vocals and oud, adding a level that makes this recognisable sound all the more distinct.
Malaika is a plaintive cry for possibly for a lost love and the musical accompaniment perfectly highlights the blend of musical styles perfectly.
You’ll be singing along to the infectious coda of Georgina after your first listen. That said, there are other contenders on the EP for earworms that will stay with after the EP has finished.
It’s a collection of songs that needs to be immersed in and certainly not listened to not as background. There is something meditative about the EP as it transports you to other places
By the time the final track comes around, Sikuhizi, you will want to listen to this again. With a running time of 25-minutes, there are no excuses for you not doing so.
Mchanga Mweupe is a release that delivers so much and promises more for the future.
Paul Clark is a freelance journalist/writer, with a keen interest in music of many genres. He has been a sports journalist mainly throughout his career, but is finally following his passion and writing more about music.