Home Music Mário Rui Silva: Stories from Another Time 1982-1988

Mário Rui Silva: Stories from Another Time 1982-1988

Angolan musicologist-guitarist Mário Rui Silva fills a need you may not know you had: imagine an artist that crosses the rhythms of King Sunny Ade, the melodies of Naná Vasconcelos and, by their influence, the soft pop sensibilities of Everything But The Girl. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? With gentle hooks, sinuous beats and exquisite guitar work, Stories from Another Time 1982-1988, 17 tracks taken from three albums Silva released in the ‘80s, pushes these buttons for the better part of 71 minutes. While it falters briefly, it’s a gorgeous genre-crossing display of instrumental virtuosity and irresistible songcraft.

The languorous “Kazum-zum-zum” opens the set with mesmerizing rhythms that resemble the Nigerian artist King Sunny Ade’s juju music. Grounded with a thick bassline, a shimmering synth solo breaks up the mid-track groove, and for nearly six minutes Silva and his group maintain this steady pulse, with the leader’s modest vocals on top. Silva was influenced by Angolan forms like semba and kazukuta, which he learned to play in the ‘60s. Now, Angola is a long way from Nigeria, and any resemblance Silva’s music bears to Ade may emerge from a common connection: the Portuguese, who colonized both countries. This is the very reason why Silva’s music sounds very Brazilian as well; he credits this similarity to “African rhythms taken by the slaves [which] gave rise to other musical cultures.”

Led by thumb piano, the under-two-minute instrumental “Kizomba Kya Kisanji” leans into the percussive side of Silva’s heritage, but this shifts to a completely different direction with the enchanting acoustic guitar work on “Dembita,” an instrumental that moves effortlessly between delicate finger work and brilliant chords, with varied percussion that subtly changes beats while the lead melodies soar through nearly six minutes of something pretty close to heaven.

Silva’s versatility gives these Stories the clever impression of being a mixtape assembled from the work of different artists. That’s how good he is; he brings the simmering funk just as easily as he brings the aching melodies. These seemingly contradictory elements come together on “Ngisumba,” which lays delicate guitar work over lightly danceable organic beats, a vigorous vocal chorus boosting the signal more than his unassuming voice may be willing to do.

Much of this album is in a minor-key melancholy mode, but the joy is palpable, and when he breaks into a more upbeat rhythm on “Sung’aly” and a brass section unexpectedly echoes the melody, it’s a brilliant release of tension.

The compilers at Time Capsule take you on a delightful journey through intercontinental musical influences and moods just in the first five tracks — that’s how good a mixtape this starts out to be. The selections proceed through more variations of Silva’s gift—the dreamy beach ballad “Lonjura,” the percussive “Madimba M’ami,” the piercingly dramatic strings of “Kora Kya Ngola” —with barely a mis-step. But the magic drops off a bit — albeit 13 tracks in — with “Lembranca Dum Velho,” whose soprano sax line and electric keyboards turn into mere smooth-jazz fusion. It’s a groove that might be just fine on another album, but here it loses some of what makes Silva so good. “Dongada” stays in this lane for a few minutes, the smooth jazz notes tempered by acoustic guitar and distant vocals that make this sound like an odd lament. Still, these are the weak links on an otherwise terrific comp.

Fortunately, the rest of the album returns to Silva’s acoustic melodies, and the pacing is impeccable, moving from the brooding “Depois De Uma Conversa” to more stunning finger work and wistful vocals on “Ngele-Ngele,” finally ending with the one-and-a-half minute “Kambanza K’etu” which shows off Silva’s chops for an intense flamenco-like drama that unspools in all of 89 seconds. Where has Mário Rui Silva been all your life? He’s been making music for half a century now, and you’ve probably never heard of him before. Stories from Another Time is a (mostly) timeless introduction to someone who might become your new favorite guitarist.

Summary
With simmering funk and aching melodies, the Angolan musicologist-guitarist has a versatility that gives these Stories the feel of a mixtape assembled from the work of different artists.
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Sunshine Folk
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