These sorts of experiments are always tricky to pull of tastefully.
Mumford and Sons, the West London originating blue-grass band, rose to fame with the super earnest (and mostly cheesey) neo-folk of their debut Sigh No More. By the time 2015’s Wilder Mind came about the band had taken a direction more readily recognisable as straight up (but equally cheesey) ‘rock’ with the help of Arctic Monkeys’ producer James Ford. And now, finally, the restless band have taken in a new influence, stepping away from Americana and fully embracing ‘Africa’. Oh boy.
This week the band released the video for the song ‘Wona’ featuring SA’s Beatenberg, Senegal’s Baaba Maal and UK-based The Very Best – all of whom also feature on the collaborative Johannesburg EP, which was written and recorded mostly while the Mumford were performing alongside those acts across SA late January this year. The EP is currently being celebrated with a multi-disciplinary exhibition in Okayafrica’s space in Brooklyn, NY.
While this could easily come across as exploitative – with the British group looking for a new musical angle to mine – they navigate this issue much in the same way AKA did with his all-women remix for ‘Baddest’; by truly letting their guests take the centre stage and relegating themselves mainly to chorus duty.
Beatenberg’s Matthew Field continues the fine form of The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg with typically astute writing in his verses, and Baaba steals the show with his effervescent vocal performance – before the stadium-ready hook carries it all home. It all fits together much better than one might expect, considering how many chefs were involved in the cooking here.
Check out the collective troupe’s performance of the song on Jimmy Fallon last night: