Album Review: Maajo – ‘Water of Life’

Written by on December 19, 2022


Afro-Finnish band Maajo releases their third album, Water of Life, featuring two previously released tracks, “Better Days” and “Uelmissani,” via Wonderwheel Recordings.

Maajo has evolved from a sample-based electronic musical project to a full-sized band, including African vocalists and musicians. The addition of two band members, Waina and Gilbert K, as well as featured artists Issiaka Dembele and Ismaila Sané, root the album’s stories in a diverse range of backgrounds, featuring vocals in no less than six different languages.

Water of Life revolves around the three vocalists. Waina hails from Zambia and sings in Nyanja, English, and Finnish. Gilbert K primarily sings in his native Mauritian Creole while comprising part of the percussion line. Gilbert K has played with such legends as Tony Allen, Andy Summers, Diana King, and Suzanne Vega.

Ismaila Sané, who is from the Casamance region of Southern Senegal, sings in Wolof (a widely spoken language in West Africa) on “Ndekete,” and in Jola on “Èwàn.”

Along with dropping two full-length albums and three EPs, Maajo wrote the soundtrack for the 1920s silent film, Lost World, as well as having performed at festivals and venues all over the place.

Encompassing 11-tracks, the album begins with the title track, featuring Waina. The song opens on sparking tones flowing into a dreamy, percolating rhythm as Waina’s exotic vocals imbue the lyrics with vibrant, creamy textures.

Entry points on Water of Life include “Ti Mamzel,” riding a delicious, syncopated rhythm supplied by the finessed percussive talent of Gilbert K. The undulating feel and flow of the harmonics convey coruscating colors and an enchanting dynamism, at once alluring and mobile.

Blending hints of pop and lush Afrobeat flavors, “Better Days” pushes out tasty dance energy, while smooth, captivating vocals give the lyrics posh, tropical savors. Whereas the rippling, throbbing rhythm of “Ndekete,” topped by cashmere harmonics and the bewitching voice of Ismaila Sané, shapes a lusciously mysterious soundscape.

With its blend of EDM-laced rhythm and Afrobeats, “Èwàn” offers irresistible movement and the dazzling, chanting timbres of Ismaila Sané.

A personal favorite because of its sumptuous rolling rhythm, “Lesa Fye” merges the rich surfaces of Waina’s splendid voice and the titillating percussion of Gilbert K into an entrancing tune dripping with gentle flotation.

Full of wickedly luxurious textures, seductive rhythms, and stellar vocals, Water of Life delivers an array of tantalizing music.

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