Monday, April 11, 2016

Tales From Mozambique
Sunday, April 10, 2016

DURING the 1970s, black- conscious Jamaicans followed the civil war in Mozambique between freedom fighters and forces loyal to the southern African country’s Portugese rulers.

Two decades after independence in 1975, Mozambican youth like Rui Paulo Matavele rocked to the rebel sounds of reggae.

Today, Rui Paulo Matavele is singer Ras Haitrm, one of the most popular reggae acts in his country.

The 36-year-old artiste is in Kingston recording songs for an EP with the Firehouse Crew at Anchor studio.

To date, he has done six albums. Two have been recorded in Germany where he lived for three years, and Brazil, where he has pockets of support.

For the yet-titled EP, he wanted a stripped-down sound. A friend in Germany recommended he get the Firehouse Crew, the band behind a number of Luciano’s and Sizzla’s biggest hits.

“Everywhere I have recorded I’ve not been happy with the final product-the sound. Now, I think I’m in the right place,” said Ras Haitrm shortly before his first recording session Thursday.

From Maputo, the Mozambique capital, he was strongly influenced by African music in his youth, but also listened to “lots of reggae”.

His diverse Jamaican playlist includes songs by militants like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear, and the feel-good rocksteady of BB Seaton.

Since kicking off his recording career in 1997, Ras Haitrm has done a clutch of albums.

Be Strong, the first, was released in 2002.

Zion Bridge and Serious Times were recorded in Brazil in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Brazil and South Africa are his strongest markets outside of Mozambique. Living for an extended period in the city of Freiburg, Germany, helped him establish a following in that country.

With the Firehouse Crew’s patented drum and bass rhythms, Ras Haitrm steps out of his African-influenced sound for the first time. It’s a deliberate strategy to reach new fans.

“I don’t want to be commercial. I just want to expand my fan base, but still with conscious lyrics,” he said.

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