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Netsayi Monkeys' Wedding Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

She fully embraces her position on the cusp of African and European cultures.

Kevin Le Gendre 2009

The follow-up to the generally lauded 2006 debut Chimurenga Soul sees London-born, Zimbabwe-raised and (currently) Bristol-based singer Netsayi continue to assert herself as a strong, bold character willing to run the full gamut of emotions in the manner of the best torch singers or troubadours.

There is salty humour on Top Cop, puppy love vertigo on Punch Drunk and a near acidic anger on Weaves and Magazines, a track that is a literal attack on a treacherous friend and perhaps a figurative swipe at music industry gatekeepers intent on making a neat commodity of cultural complexity. Musically, this means Netsayi is in a near constant state of flux, veering seamlessly from an explicit rock lexicon, with a snapping, square rhythmic identity to lithe, circular riffs that make her African heritage more explicit, even more so when a mbira undulates into action, almost as an effete countermelody to the guitar-bass foundation.

Over a dozen concise, tightly marshalled tracks the stylistic domino topple is an engaging, absorbing one, but on more than one occasion, Netsayi’s compositional signature, often dramatically presenting the melodic line as practically stuttered, speech-like phrases, could be pushed further down a developmental road. Her latent jazz sensibility would accommodate the occasional push of the voice towards soft, legato tones to create stronger dynamics, and it’s a shame that producers Jonathan Quarmby and Kevin Bacon haven’t ushered her on to this territory.

Yet in its many moments of triumph, Monkeys' Wedding re-channels pop and folk sensibilities with an imagination that befits the artist’s widescreen culture, hence a piece like Punch Drunk appears, on first hearing, as a beautifully strange, subtle extrapolation of a flamenco rhythm, but on repeated plays it reveals itself to be an artful remodelling of Grace Jones’ artful remodelling of Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose.

Fully embracing her position on the cusp of African and European cultures, right down to the unique way her accent slides right between ‘Zim’ and English, Netsayi is an artist whose future is anything but calculatedly predictable. Which is a reason to be more than cheerful.

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