Singer and multi-instrumentalist, Zé Manel is the most famous and influential contemporary musician to emerge from the West African country of Guinea-Bissau. By the age of seven, Zé, playing drums and acoustic guitar, had become the main attraction of Super Mama Djombo band. During the 1970's, this seminal orchestra played a major role in the liberation struggle of this former Portuguese colony.
In 1982, Zé released his first solo album "Tustumunhos di Aonti" (Yesterday's Testimony), which sounded the alarm over the formation of a new repressive ruling class in Guinea-Bissau. The album was a national event (people in Guinea-Bissau today still sing the songs from this soulful, relevant album), but the political environment was heating up and Manel's fans were concerned for his safety. Manel fled his homeland. This self-exile took him to Portugal, France and, finally, the United States.
His American debut album, "Maron di Mar" on Cobiana Records and released in 2001, was an instant success. It received rave reviews from European and American media and was nominated for best album at the All African Kora Music Awards in South Africa, and best world music album at the Just Plain Folks Music Awards in the USA.
He returns with a new album "African Citizen" on the M10 label. His message in the title track is more global. Zé calls for African unity, peace, and stability on all the continents. He delivers his messages in the most beguiling of tenor voices accompanied by his acoustic guitar and percussion. In this latest release, Zé's uniquely innovative talent expands the boundaries of both traditional and contemporary Guinea-Bissau dance music, creating a new musical genre that is urban yet profoundly steeped in the roots of his homeland.
In 2004 the CD "African Citizen" won best album and best song of the year in the African music category. This is an organization which instead of having Corporate sponsorship, is put together by Songwriters, Recording Artists, Music Publishers, Record Labels and others in the Music Industry. He performed a stirring rendition of the winning song Voz do Sangue with his band at the award ceremony in Los Angeles and was presented with the two awards.
Sung in many languages (Kriol, Portuguese, English, and French), the lyrics are as declamatory and inflammatory as his rhythms are infectiously danceable. Zé sings of love for family and friends, respect for women, compassion for children, social justice, and he poignantly describes the ravages of poverty, prostitution, AIDS, and the dictatorships that repress the advancement of people. Zé said he faced the challenge of blending cultures while preserving his own. "I am respecting our traditional music, but we want to make more progress towards meeting other cultures".
The album was recorded in the United States with guest artists from around the world. African Citizen reflects Zé's dream of cultural fusion : one world, one people, many voices.
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