The music of Mozambique comes from a variety of influences and has influenced other styles as well. Much of what has become their traditional music is a combination of African and Portuguese musical styles and instruments. And because of its Portuguese ties, the music of Brazil also shares some commonalities (along with Cuba as well).
As they gained their independence, they began to move away from European-influenced styles to more African influences, especially those from eastern and southern Africa. One style that is well known from Mozambique is called marrabenta. This type of dance music originated in the urban areas. Marrabenta songs are generally thought to be love songs, and although the word itself is from Portuguese, the lyrics are typically in local languages. One musician, Fany Pfumo, lived in South Africa for many years and introduced kwela music into marrabenta.
Timbila music, originating from the Chopi tribes of Inhambane Provice, is characterized by an instrument called the mbila (the plural of this is timbila). The mbila is related to a xylophone, and ensembles typically consist of ten xylophones. A leader improvises a melody line over a contrapuntal second line.
Pandza music became more popular during more recent years. As a mix of various urban styles like marrabenta, ragga, and hip-hop, it tends to be more popular among the youth. The lyrics mainly talks about social problems and daily life and is generally sung in either Portuguese or Shangaan (a language spoken in/near Maputo, a dialect of Tsonga).
Like many other areas of Africa, dances are often intertwined with the musical styles performed. In Mozambique, these dances tend to have intricate moves and are performed for a variety of reasons, mainly for rituals or retelling an event. For the most part, both male and female dancers wear colorful outfits and/or masks during the dance. A few of the more commonly known dances are the marrabenta dance, the nhau dance, the mapik dance, and the xigubo dance.
I found several groups and musicians on Spotify. The first one I listened to is Rosália Mboa. Her music falls into the pandza category, but it stays a little more on the traditional style than other musicians. I like her music, and I especially like the mix of high and medium guitar sounds. She generally sings in her local language, although I can’t be for certain what it is.
The next one I listened to is Lizha James. I really liked what I heard here. She utilizes quite a bit more ragga into her music and sings primarily in Portuguese (although there are a couple tracks with English titles and mostly English lyrics). DJ Junior, MC Roger, Denny Og, and DJ Ardiles are others whose music falls into the same category. They tend to switch languages from using local languages to Portuguese or English.
If you’re a fan of reggae, dancehall, or even reggaeton, I think you’d like Ziqo. Ziqo has some good beat in a mellow, smooth voice. I listened to an album with him and Denny Og, who I think kind of reminds me of Beeny Man or sometimes Don Omar at times. His rough, raspy voice makes him almost the DMX of Mozambique. But the music is catchy and has a good beat. I could beat that in my car.
Stewart Sukuma is a good example of marrabenta music. When I listened to his music, it reminded me of something I’d hear on a Brazilian samba album or maybe an MPB album (Musica Popular Brasileiro – Popular Brazilian Music). I liked what I heard, even though it still totally reminded me of Brazil. But be prepared before you watch the video above -- if you're like me, you'll need a tissue. Chico Antônio’s music was a little softer in style, not quite as “in your face.” He also performs marrabenta music. It definitely gave me that impression he’s probably been performing for longer than I’ve been alive perhaps.
Another marrabenta group is Mingas. It sounds like the type of music you would put on when you want to relax at the end of the day with a glass of wine and just chill. The music seems a bit slower than compared with pandza.
When I listened to Ghorwane, I was torn between what I was listening to. On one hand, I recognized that distinctive African guitar riff, but then it was interrupted with what I identify as a Latin horn line. But this is what I love about music – merging styles we typically identify with a particular style of music. They also utilize the rhythm section quite a bit, too – and that’s always a plus.