Review Summary: The album you would never hear.
It seemingly doesn't want to be heard. Although littered upon all streaming services, next to no listens have been had. But Uxam
exists with no deterrence, simply waiting.
Since her debut and singular release, Mamngo
has been somewhat of an intriguing thought lingering in my brain. Her brilliance captivated me instantly, creating a lasting moment that I frequently must revisit. There is no other musical equivalent, no replacement that comes close to delivering in the same way, the feeling Mamngo
bestows upon me: pure happiness.
And yet, it was never meant to be
, for anyone else. Unfortunately, her hindrances outweigh her genius. Firstly, exposure is the largest concern. Uxam
has seemingly no publicity, advertisement, or attention drawing to itself. Beyond the songs themselves having been posted online, there are no other traces of Mamngo
's music. In fact, Spotify provides no results, insisting I want to listen to Mango, until I type in both her name and album. The only mention of her that I could find online was a possible Mamngo match on Facebook, who owns a Wedding and Catering service in Johannesburg, South Africa. I'm waiting to hear back from her
, to confirm that it is the same Mamngo
--but the photo of her with three friends does look similar to the one of her on the album cover. I was only able to stumble upon this rarity by listening to a randomized playlist on Spotify. In other words, I was endlessly panning for gold and found a diamond.
Another difficulty presented here is instrument choice. I'm not sure what is standard production in South Africa, but superior sounds were either not provided by Big Boy Records, or Mamngo
knew her sheer brilliance wouldn't be hindered by using the very first sound samples she found. She deploys a variety of electronic instrument substitutions and beats, in addition to what sound like real instruments, to assemble her vision of a full, kwaito/afro-zouk band. The result is a clear recording, but a cheesy, almost Randy-Newman-esque feel. Did this stop her from creating a masterpiece? Absolutely not. She delivers jazzy bass, melodica, marimbas, and flutes in the most delightfully catchy way possible. There's no mention that those are the actual instruments used, so discern for yourself.
In the album's first moments, the title track, “Uxam,” hits heavy on the melodica
. Initial notes are more reminiscent of a 90's Playskool
keyboard, but it quickly opens up into fuller acoustics accompanied by her signature knocking drum beats and slapping jazz bass. It sets a good tone for the upcoming collage of flavorful songs, and for the second track, “Matshi
tshi,” is also my favorite track on the album. It begins with what is essentially an interlude. A somber Afrikaan folky sound transitions into saxophone, then it abruptly escapes into a bright, joyful melody. The following hook is the most memorable on the album and has the tendency to stick in my head for days. Since I don't speak Afrikaan, I just like to sing, “Oh, banana boat
,” alongside the plucked guitar, tambourine, and what sounds like bongos.
There are a few more surprises on the album, like the Caribbean-style steel drum sounds in, “Amadoda,” and what I interpret as faux-falsetto
in album closer, “Imikhuba.” The three instrumental versions of previous tracks at the end of the album are a treat, but really add nothing unless you enjoy Karaoke for a language you probably don't speak.
is a great break away from common listening habits, and possibly what you need to shake off a bad day. It's a head-bopping, body-swaying, lively gem, weaving between the traditional and contemporary sounds of South Africa.
Update 2020/4/3: This review is now the number 1 google result for "Mamngo Uxam." No response yet on Facebook.
Trve Rating: 4.8/5