By Frisco Rosso
Now for something completely different.
Sakaki Mango is fast becoming a hot topic in traditional music circles, and is doing wonders to raise the profile and versatility of time-honoured African instruments.
Having spent much of his life conducting research and training across the African continent, chiefly in Tanzania, Mango has certainly honed his talent from the most authentic sources. But he is no mere imitator – rather, a cultural artist in the truest sense.
An accomplished instrumentalist, Mango has effectively tapped into and utilized the sound of the limba and other lamellophones to create an intriguing contemporary fusion of broad African and Japanese melodies. In doing so, he has been able to create a unique pop-rock vibe while remaining faithful to his traditional influences.
The limba’s tones are not dissimilar to the tranquil inharmonic sound of wind chimes, but with the luxury of control and range through tines and chromatic octaves. Held in the palms and played using mainly thumbs, the limba is relatively easy to play but requires a great deal of dexterity, thought and perseverance to master.
While you’re unlikely to be able to bang out a convincing rendition of Stairway to Heaven on the traditional variety of lamellophone instruments, there are more advanced equivalents such as the electric likembe that provide more easily recognisable notes.
Addressing issues of identity, modernity and globalisation there are plenty of heartfelt messages and morals in Mango’s songs for enthusiasts to engage with. The Japanese language barrier may well send some listeners running away screaming to the sanctuary of Hôtel Costes lounge music, but the intricacy and competency of Mango’s tunes strike a more honest and arguably purer chord in the ear of the discerning listener, and are certainly worth exploring.
While Mango’s music is likely to be confined to the ‘New Age’ or ‘World Music’ sections of high street record stores it has plenty of appeal to extend beyond the headphones of music majors and those who simply want something “Zen” to get stoned and hump to.
So, take a step outside the strictly conventional and give Sakaki Mango & Limba Train Sound System a jam – you’re bound to feel better for hearing it.
With more tension than your mother’s suspension, I am Frisco Rosso. I’m likely to deliver a few lines worth at any given moment regarding film, music, sport, books and anything morally unsound that strikes a blow between the eyes in the name of entertainment.