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Music reviews

Rwanda Is My Home

Rwanda Is My Home – genocide survivors get together.

Rwanda Is My Home

by The Good Ones (Independent Records 091 CD, LP + download)

Janvier Havugimana, Adrien Kazigira and Stanislas Hitimani: three Rwandan farmers who count Hutus, Tutsis and Twa people among their families. Three men who survived their country’s 1994 genocide and, joined by singer Javon Mahoro, have come together to sing unadorned and powerful songs about love.

Sung in their native Kinyarwanda, Rwanda Is My Home is the band’s second album after Kigali y’Izahabu (Kigali of Gold), the 2010 debut, also produced by Ian (Tinariwen) Brennan. Despite the new album’s title, its 11 songs are either in Kinyarwanda or French with, annoyingly, no translations of the songs beyond their titles. There is a low-fi immediacy to Rwanda Is My Home and its acoustic guitars and percussion, even if it lacks the atmospheric sounds (dogs barking and passing cars) that made its predecessor so homely. The songs meander gently through their material: the theme of love and relationships can be extended to community relations, and here the importance of harmony, literally and metaphorically, is key.

But the knowledge and the legacy of genocide are never far away from this. ‘Nyamwabga Kumva’ (‘Stubborn to the End’), all fingerpicked guitar and lilting vocals, was written by Manassaé Havugimana, brother to lead singer Janvier. He was murdered in 1994.

Rating: Three stars

Captain Hume's Journey to India

by Philippe Peirlot and Dhruba Ghosh. (Flora 1006 CD)

Captain Hume’s Journey to India – richly imagined, beautifully realized.

Rarely has East met West in such a beguiling record of a musical encounter. In 1600, Captain Tobias Hume, mercenary, musician dedicated to the then-unfashionable viol and an approximate contemporary of Shakespeare, travelled to India with the East India Company and there he met a sarangi player… maybe. That Hume himself existed is known, that his compositions exist is certain, but there is less evidence that he visited India at all. No matter, for Belgian early music specialist Philippe Pierlot (bass viol player) and Indian sarangi master Dhruba Ghosh, have done the travelling for him.

In the main, Captain Hume’s Journey to India consists of Hume’s own compositions for viol. Dances, airs, a galliard from Pierlot’s six-string viol create a stately, formal atmosphere. And then, following an expressive ‘I Am Melancholy’, the journey itself takes over and the recording cedes to the sounds of Ghosh’s sarangi, plus the tabla and tanpura from Nitiranjan Biswas and Roselyne Simpelaere respectively. The signal that we have moved is ‘Sunrise by the River’, a beautiful, floating 10-minute instrumental that introduces the hazy drone typical of much Indian string instrumentation. We are now in a place of rich imaginings, with the sharply rapped tabla trills matching the formality of Hume’s own composition. The musical conversation, in which all instruments come together, is continued with material from both Hume and the contemporary musicians. Richly imagined and beautifully realized, this is a haunting reconnaissance.

Rating: Five stars

Louise Gray

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