Spreading a message of love, peace and unity, while their music addresses an ancestral calling to stand up and represent diversity, Te Mana is an R&B, Rock, Reggae fusion band, formed in April 2018, by musicians Shannon Thompson (Lead singer), Rawhiti Turnbull (Guitar), Shane Tane (Drums), Roland Kapene (Bass) and Al Goodman (Keys). Te Mana is by far one of the most talented bands to hit the music scene this year. If you’re the kind of person who depends on music to escape the concrete jungle, you’ll definitely want to sample the band’s self-titled EP. The sounds capture a pure ambiance of expression, while vigorous, conscience lyrics hit deep into your soul. The music is tight, round, easy and the vocals ride the rhythm with smooth confidence for a thoroughly refreshing listening experience.
You really don’t have to be an R&B, Rock, or Reggae fan to appreciate the fantastic songwriting and performances on this recording. Te Mana transcend musical boundaries on all levels. The band is producing music for the new world much like the artists that came in during the 60’s to bring in a new found consciousness in their craft.
The EP starts off with a groovy reggae rhythm, easing the listener in with “Freedom,” a silky, immersive, and distinctly ear-warming song. Shannon Thompson’s soulful vocals give the song a strong focal point, while the backing voices add a luxurious layer of earworm goodness.
As the recording progresses, the melodies meld themselves with your brain while your ears traverse the pleasing soundscapes. A deeper listen to the lyrics, and you’ll quickly realize that this self-titled recording is a lot more than just a collection of songs thrown together. On “Dreams”, Te Mana switch up the groove and pace.
The sound feels fuller and overall more ambitious – rolling bass lines, tight drums, concise funky guitars, warm keys and smooth vocals drive this motif into soul-feeding euphoria. You’ll simply get lost in the pristine sonics of this track.
“Because of Love” (Radio Edit) introduces the kind of mid-tempo ballad in which Te Mana, and particularly lead vocalist Shannon Thompson thrives and excels in. Rawhiti Turnbull drops some searing guitar lines in this one, adding an animated dimension to the arrangement.
The all-round musicianship, as usual, is first-rate and near perfection. Al Goodman’s keyboard magic is both elegant and deeply poignant, as Thompson’s vocal cords reach straight from the heart. This really takes thing to another level for Te Mana on this record.
Te Mana’s attention to detail when crafting a song is extraordinary. Every sound is crisp, clean and superbly placed in a seemingly effortless way. Their music has a unique style that creatively blends reggae with the reverberating echoes of soul.
“Revolution” incorporates a haunting organ riff set on top of a pulsating drum and bass by the exquisite rhythm partnership of drummer Shane Tane and bassist Roland Kapene that perfectly complements the story being told. The track shows that Te Mana has developed an understanding of what reggae music is all about. The tune is layered and lush, but at the same time simple and catchy.
“When I’m Not There” is a wonderful conclusion to an EP that you don’t want to end. The rhythm is smooth, slow and hypnotic. The lead melody and surrounding harmony sits at the apex of Te Mana’s musical prowess. Words are important but the message of a song can be completely lost if there’s too many lyrics packed in a verse or chorus.
So singer Shannon Thompson delivers just the right dosage of passionate wordplay to captivate your senses. The guitars jangle, twisting and turning around the whirl of the warm keys and throbbing basslines, while every note resonates deeper and deeper into your soul.
I doubt I’ll hear a better ballad by any other artist this year – major label or independent. “When I’m Not There” is a Top 10 mega-hit waiting to happen. The melody, the instrumentation, and the lyrics are beyond immaculate within a meticulous 5 song set.
Looking forward, I’m wondering how Te Mana could possibly improve on this masterpiece. The final word however, is that this is a fantastic recording, from beginning to end. The best of the year so far…in any genre!