Record Review: Samite – Trust (2012)

Instrumental East African music with multi-layered melodies in support of peoples in war-torn regions

Genre: Ethnic / East African / Instrumental

Region: New York, USA

Artists’ Website: http://www.samite.com/

Label: Musicians For World Harmony

This is an album rooted in East African tradition albeit with a sound that rarely springs out from that continent. Remarkably, there are no percussions here, which comprise the biggest and most celebrated part of the African sound. Guitars, cello, flute, bass and Samite Mulondo’s (the main composer of the album) kalimba nail down one eloquent melody after the other in imaginative song arrangements. The album is built on musical ideas of Samite, which accompanied the documentary ‘Addiction Incorporated’ – showcasing the corruption of the tobacco industries and the way they have been manipulating consumers. All proceeds from ‘Trust’ will be given to ‘Musicians For World harmony’, in support of people displaced or traumatised by conflict.

Samite Mulondo is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and humanitarian born and raised in Uganda but forced later to flee to Kenya. A Samite Mulondo livefew years later he migrated to USA, where he still resides between his frequent travels to war-torn regions in Africa and elsewhere. He was taught to play the traditional flute by his grandfather at a tender age. Since then he has performed countless times, he learned to play kalimba, marimba, litungu and various flutes and he has released 8 albums. Samite himself was the subject of the documentary ‘Song of the Refugee’ (1998) and in 2002 he founded the organisation ‘Musicians For World harmony’. Apart from ‘Addiction Incorporated’ he has scored the music for the film ‘Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai’ (2009).

‘Trust’ is Samite’s 9th album but unlike his previous recordings it features a host of producers and different musicians. He worked with director Charles Evans and South African guitarist and friend Tony Cedras for the music arrangement: “We made most decisions between the three of us. It was the most democratic working environment ever” as Samite explains, “This made me discover myself in a different way. I didn’t have to play it all myself. We were behind the glass, on the other side of the screen, giving musicians ideas and direction about what to play, until we got emotional satisfaction.”

Charles Evans Samite Mulondo Tony Cedras

from left to right: Charles Evans, Samite Mulondo and Tony Cedras

The multi-layered melodies on ‘Trust’ are striking as every instrument is tuned in harmonious interplay. ‘First Love’ is bursting from blooming emotions with all instruments in melodious synergy. ‘Girl Grown Up’ features awarded guitarist David Cullen in a relaxing Jamaican reggae groove; however this is a typical Bakisimba rhythm the comes from Baganda, the largest ethnic group in Uganda. The horns of ‘Empty Nest’ bring in mind the work of South African legend Hugh Masekela. Samite’s palpitating kalimba in songs like the title track, ‘On Our Own’ or ‘Infatuated’ generates a deeply African vibe while providing the groundwork for other instruments to compliment each track. Especially the later is an innovative track which combines kalimba’s captivating rhythmic melodies with traditional Ugandan verses sang by Samite himself as artfully amplified by Elizabeth Simkin’s cello.

Uganda Refugee Camp

Refugee camp in Uganda

Samite believes in healing through music and this is what he wants to support with this album. Communities in countries like Uganda and Congo face war and terror while village life is at times totally disrupted. “People are now facing things they’ve never faced in the past, like kids who have been forced to kill their own parents and relatives” as Samite argues. “Music can help these children, but how do you approach it? We are both reminding people to use their culture for therapy, and in some cases, to learn from people trained in Western music therapy.”

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Discover more ethnic music via Freegan Kolektiva:

Various Artists – The Mountain Music Project: A Musical Odyssey from Appalachia to Himalaya (2012)

Niyaz – Sumud (2012, Six Degrees Records)

Tiwarinen – Tassili

Psarantonis – epitome of deep-rooted tradition and genuine innovation

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