Review: Mighty Popo ~ Gakondo

Mighty Popo.jpg

by Jim Blum, FolkAlley.com

Mighty Popo
(Borealis Records)

Those of us at Folk Alley are proud to salute modern songwriters, legends, roots & blues, bluegrass, Celtic, and zydeco. Also in the mix is world music (at least that’s what it’s nicknamed on our side of the ocean). We are pleased that our audience embraces music which at first may be present an unfamiliar sound. All of the styles we play, as apparently disparate as they may be, have lots in common: technique, style, creativity, and energy, to name a few. Our latest offering is from The Mighty Popo.

Popo is Rwandan, but was born in a Burundian refugee camp. It is hard for most of us to comprehend what it would be like growing up in a world of violence, even genocide. It is just as hard to believe that people in such a state of despair could have dreams, create friendships, and play music. Yet that is exactly what Popo and his family did.

Jacques “Popo” Murigande calls his music world blues. He plays a handmade gourd guitar. His bandmates are featured on cajon, tama, & congas, and his guests include Doug Cox on slide guitar and John Reischman on mandolin. Popo met these two in Western Canada where he now lives. This is his first acoustic album and all of the songs are written in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s only indigenous language.

“Gakondo” means origins or tradition, and it will become evident to you despite the language barrier that Popo loves Rwanda. The landscape sounds beautiful and is very hilly. Murigande is fascinated by the music of the Batwa, Bahutu, and Batusi, especially where the different styles intersect. The title song traces his family history from his immediate family all the way back to his ancestors.

“Urugendo” details the beauty he has seen in all of his travels. Popo feels fortunate that he has been able to live in Africa and Canada, and feels a debt of gratitude to his Mother for “bringing me to this earth to experience the beauty,”

The album’s final song may be the easiest to latch on to as it features instruments with which our ears are most familiar. The mandolin and slide guitar fit well with the African instruments, and the song is full of joy. The rhythm and the singing style come from south western Rwanda, bordering the Congo.

Gakondo is an album in tribute the ancient songs and poems of Rwanda. In searching out his personal musical history, Popo has opened a door for all of us. If you like music from Africa and prefer singing this album is recommended.

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