With the ever-increasing ease with which we share musical ideas these days, there is a trend toward more flexible genre distinctions, and perhaps the possibility of doing away with the concept of "genres" altogether. Our artistic interconnectedness around the globe has also led to the blurring of cultural barriers, with an unprecedented amount of cross-pollinating of musical traditions. One example of this beautiful global collaboration comes from the U.K. group Penya, whose member Magnus P.I. traveled to Tanzania in 2017 to perform and record with the prominent gogo musician Msafiri Zawose. The result of their work has culminated into the new EP Penya Safari, which is out now via On The Corner Records.
One could analyze the deeply diverse musical elements on Penya Safari but in truth, Penya and Zawose's collaboration is so organic that the music has a sonic identity that is uniquely its own. The project features four original tracks as well as three remixes and contains vocal material in Swahili, ancient Yoruba, Finnish, and Spanish, underscoring its eclectic makeup. Even with the varying influences, the EP manages to convey a soothing sense of familiarity and joy. At one point during the recording sessions at Zawose's home near Bagamoyo, the music called for extra voices so he summoned his sister Tabu Huke Zawose and his brother Bahati Julia Zawose, who deliver magnificent supporting vocals throughout the EP. At some moments, one can also hear the sounds of young children who were playing outside the recording studio, making an endearing addition to the mix.
"Aalto" kicks off the EP with some gripping vocal layers and mysterious soundscapes that gradually coalesce to pique interest in what's to follow. "Penya Safari" raises the bar with an irresistible beat that is ready for dance floors, even as it exercises a healthy restraint throughout. The group delivers a change of pace on "Yale," with resonant horns, Tanzanian elements, and enough of a pulse to remind us of Penya's dalliance with club culture. The final original track "Heyyeh" begins with interweaving vocal lines that set the tone for the exquisite blend of rhythms that show up in the other instrument parts later in the track. For the latter three entries on the EP, Tom Blip, Cervo, and Guedra Guedra offer remixed versions of "Heyyeh," which will certainly get listeners' bodies moving as well as enhancing the project's themes of diversity and collaboration.
With just six tracks, Penya Safari proves to be a special project with remarkable musical moments that will hopefully help facilitate more global musical connections in the future.
Penya Safari EP is available to order here.