Mariano Schiavolini, composer, music producer and member of the 70’s progressive rock group, Celeste, has been pursuing his often humanitarian themes in music and has recently channeled it into his Musica For Africa project. Mariano wanted to bring to life a series of songs, combining the styles of soul and spiritual with progressive rock. To achieve his intentions Mariano called on a host of collaborators from the African continent, as well as NYC soul artist artist, Clayton Bryant, who has also worked with artist of the caliber of Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Sting, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston.
The Musica For Africa project kicks off with two singles – “Where Will it End”, a hymn dedicated to the victims and their families of the Garissa University College attack of April 2, 2015, in which 148 people were killed and 79 were injured.
The song has 2 versions. The first was sung by two African reggae artists: South African native, Thuthukani Cele, former keyboard player for Lucky Dube, and Congolese artist, Mermans Mosengo, member of the international group Playing for Change.
Together they provided lead vocals over English and Zulu harmonies sung by the Witt’s University choir of Johannesburg, which specializes in Ethnic African music. The second version has the aforementioned artist, Clayton Bryant, over a magnificent backdrop by the Soweto Gospel Choir, world-renowned for their international collaborations with the likes of groups like U2.
The second single is “Because You Are There”, is an ensemble piece with a total of six South African singers and the Soweto Gospel Choir. The lyrics tell a poignant story of different people suffering the hardships of poverty, yet who manage to hold on to their smiles, hope and joy for life because of the everlasting presence of God.
Despite being destitute, they remain rich in their hearts. The track features a host of successful South African singers, including: Faith Kekana (a past collaborator of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela), Mandisa Dlanga, (who of late collaborates with Johnny Clegg, Bo (lead singer of the well-known group, Denim), Denise Mothiba (a young and talented up and coming singer), Tracey-Lee Oliver (who appeared on South Africa’s “Voice”) and Edith Masakona (who has traveled the world singing in the musical, The Lion King).
The songs which are released through the Assieme Edizioni Record Label (a catalogue administered by Warner since 1982) were written by Mariano Schiavolini (music) and Nicolette Turner (lyrics). The project has also completed supporting video clips for both songs which can be viewed on YouTube.
Like most projects of this nature and dimension, the immense amount of work, belief, passion and dedication put into its creation, comes oozing out of the final product. The uplifting intensity and sheer goodwill messages shining through the performances on these recordings are able to breach the heart and soul of anyone, even those with nothing more than just an iota of human compassion.
To be honest, I think even the iciest uncharitable listener will be captivated by the punctual musical performances, superb singing and overall diamond-edged standard of production, showcased on both “Where Will it End” and “Because You Are There”, regardless of its lyrical themes.
This obviously confirms the depth and measure of the project that Mariano Schiavolini has put together here – both from a creative standpoint, and his ability to have chosen collaborators that fit Musica For Africa in all of its nuances and intended scope.
The result is two splendid songs, which if allowed in through the fickle mainstream door, will emote and uplift a large slice of listeners across the globe. Musica For Africa is quoted as being “both for and by the people of the African continent.”
In all sincerity the quality of the music and the importance of its themes cannot, and most importantly, should not, be circumscribed to the African continent. These are songs meant for the entire world to hear, and a quick glimpse around the globe and its current state of socio-political and cultural being cannot induce me to believe otherwise!