In the hot and dusty Gaza province of Mozambique there is a small lake called Ghorwane that never runs dry, even in the hottest season. In 1983, a group of young musicians in Maputo, took the name Ghorwane as they launched their musical career. Today they are one of Mozambique's most respected bands. Ghorwane chose to base their music on traditional Mozambican rhythms, combined with Afropop and fusion. At the time when most established groups earned a living by imitating foreign artists, this approach came as a stimulating innovation. The injection of life they shot into the stagnant music scene, and their subsequent success, have inspired other bands to take a similar route.

The band is noted for the political and social criticism in their songs which has put them at loggerheads with the government from time to time. They have mirrored the frustration of their people at the continuing war that was grinding deeper into despair day after day, year after year. The lyrics are sung in African languages of Mozambique, like Changana, Ronga and Chope. The security services often attended their shows with instructions to listen closely to their lyrics. What saved them was that, in 1985 during the festival to celebrate the ten years of independence, Samora Machel (then President of Mozambique) declared that “It’s prohibited to lie in the People’s Republic of Mozambique,” citing Ghorwane as an example calling them bons rapazes – good guys – which they are called even today by the Mozambican people.

In 1986 Ghorwane recorded a number of songs including Massotcha, written by Zeca Alage, which spoke about the horror of war and the danger of the military to the people they are meant to be protecting. This song immediately went to #1 on the Mozambican hit parade. Again voices were raised to lay a total censorship on the band and again Samora Machel defended his bons rapazes and invited them to play at the anniversary of his wedding, a few months before his death.

In 1987 Ghorwane were invited by the DDR to perform at a political music festival. Just before their departure their visas were refused; the leader of the Mozambican National Youth Organization advised that the lyrics of Ghorwane were subversive. That same year, Ghorwane played abroad for the first time at the independence festival in Swaziland, together with the South African groups P.J. Powers and Stimela.

Peter Gabriel invited them to play at the WOMAD Festival in 1990, and during that visit Real World Records offered the group the opportunity to record their album Majurugenta. Just before their 1993 European promotional tour in support of the album, Ghorwane’s most beloved member, saxophone player and composer Zeca Alage, was assassinated.

Even though the war is now over, Ghorwane have not stopped their political and social criticism concerning developments in their country and the influence of the foreign countries and organizations in aid programs.

Further reading

John Metcalfe reveals new track: Root to Leaf

John Metcalfe reveals new track Root to Leaf, taken from his album, Tree. Eight compositions chartin...

Les Amazones d’Afrique assert women’s freedom of expression with new single ‘Kuma Fo’

The track features on their forthcoming Jacknife Lee-produced album Musow Danse.

Jocelyn Pook & Akram Khan on reimagining The Jungle Book

BAFTA & Olivier award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook releases Jungle Book reimagined on Real World X.

Sheila Chandra: The pursuit of radical vocal expression

Sheila's trilogy of albums for Real World is being re-issued on CD, and on vinyl for the first time.