It’s the most extraordinary of singers who can summon up a world in a single note. Billie Holiday’s smoky voice could do it, instantly evoking the demimonde of small clubs and speakeasies where 1930s jazz thrived. And Humberto Carlos Benfica – Wazimbo – does the same for the poignantly contradictory panorama of beauty and tragedy, poverty and potential that is his native Mozambique. To hear the first soaring notes of his signature ballad and most famous song ‘Nwahulwana’ is to be transported, to understand saudade or longing, and understand why they call him the Golden Voice of Mozambique.
Wazimbo started his music career in the 1960s playing international pop music in the clubs of Maputo, but it was in the ’70s – in his work with the bands Radio Moçambique and Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Moçambique – that he cemented his place as the most famous singer of the distinctively Luso-African style of music called marrabenta, unifying a powerful and electric horn-driven sound with soulful vocals. Marrabenta was and is adaptable, suited as well to toe-tapping dance anthems as to melancholic meditation, and proved to be a vehicle that took Wazimbo to international stardom as a touring and recording artist.
Now, the master of marrabenta is bringing the music that he put on the map on his first Canadian tour – in support of his first new recording of this decade – with the Orchestra Marrabenta de Toronto. It’s the chance to hear nothing less than the pioneer of a musical form bringing the sound he loves to life.