Album Review: Deltino Guerreiro – Eparaka [Kongoloti Records, February 2016]

Eparaka, the debut album from Deltino Guerreiro  from Maputo, Mozambique is bursting with vitality. There is a definable Portuguese influence to this African Soul in the guitar playing, rhythms and vocal style. Deltino’s voice is reminiscent of Cape Verde’s Tcheka in this way, though it is lighter and more poppy sounding. Deltino sings in Portuguese, English and Macua.

The album (released by Kongoloti Records) has a very ‘produced’ sound to it, perhaps a little over-produced in parts. There are plenty of mellow, airy textures, and Deltino’s voice is warm and extremely versatile. It opens well with ‘3 Estações’: very cool guitar playing and rhythms with a wah wah guitar solo that makes you want to dance.

‘Sonho’ has a gentle, funky guitar, beautiful vocals, lilting rhythm and melodic bass lines with tasteful brass rippling through, as well as strings and understated percussion.

The third track, ‘Faith’ is pretty tight and slick and introduces some synth pads, and tribal percussion. Then comes a slow ballad, ‘Freedom’, with electric piano that reminds me of the 1980s soul of Allen Toussaint – a bit dated. The next, ‘Okinkela’ has a bit of a cheesy ‘ lounge’ feel to it.

‘Duas Caras’ gets us back on track again with some interesting textures and four-on-the-floor pulse, plus some nice brass stabs and ethnic instruments –samples perhaps – that add a bit of flavour. Tracks seven (‘Deixa Essa Aí’) and eight, the title track  ‘Eparaka’ didn’t really add anything musically. Then it was back to another cheesy ballad ‘Se Eu Te Dissesse’ with piano accompaniment, at which point my interest began to wane.

The final track ‘Céu Azul’ did something to renew my interest, but it could have done with a bit more punch, particularly at the bottom end, but there were some interesting guitar licks and tasteful backing vocals.

This is the sort of album you can leave on bubbling away in the background without offending anyone. It all sounds a bit too light and clean production-wise. Milton Gulli and Zé Pires seem to have had a big hand in the finished sound, and it lacks balls. No doubt Deltino has some enviable vocal skills and a very cool tone to his voice, but ‘Eparaka’ does get a bit samey, and there are too many slow tracks in the middle that can easily put you off listening to the end.