Juanita Euka / Mabanzo / Strut – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

With Spring finally being sprung, and the world very much in need of a balm for the collective soul, what a joyful relief it is to turn away from the horror momentarily and instead bathe in the healing waters of Juanita Euka’s rather lovely, Mabanzo. Translating as ‘Thoughts,’ it’s a perfectly concocted pot-pourri of global influences, stirred expertly into a London-centric stew of irresistible rhythms and fine musicianship. It’s the sound of hope, of love, of a rejection of the hate and the missiles, and the pathological madness of old dictators.

It is a music of the future, existing very much in the now – the myriad connections of a globalised world enshrined in sound, a polished reflection of the ancient, genetic human impulse to dance, to celebrate life, to spend our days smiling and laughing whenever we can. It`s sad that we need reminding, of course, but it is, essentially, the sound of peace.

With Congolese / Argentinian roots, Juanita’s got plenty of bases covered and is plugged straight into the worldwide vibe on tracks like the swing-fest that is Mboka Moko: a relaxed, exuberant joint that switches languages with ease: native tongues transforming themselves, playing around, refusing simple definition and plumping for pure joy. Sophisticated, sure, but powered by fun and funk in combination – brilliant songwriting, in short.

Recent single, Nalingi Mobali Te, is a no holds-barred dancefloor stormer – horns bringing the punch, guitar lines flowing Zambesi-like through the veins of the track. ‘Bye bye…Au revoir….Adios’ intones Juanita and you’re way deep into the groove: its five minutes of unconfined ecstasy, sharp as a tack and effortlessly cool.

Wherever the needle drops you’re in good hands. Motema slinks along with a wonderfully poised sway: a linguistically diverse, late night / early morning mood – another lovely theme embellished with some great guitar flourishes and a bass-line that just won’t stop bumping. Superb quality control, brilliantly executed: summer vibes galore.

Recorded in various home studios during the pandemic – although you wouldn’t guess from the exquisite mastering – Juanita and the twenty-odd musicians she employs to give scope to her vision really outdo themselves throughout this peach of an album. If you’re struggling with things right now then it might just be the remedy you’re looking for. It’s the kind of album that you’ll be coming back to again and again, it repays your time and your attention with the love and affection that it’s been created with. Music is the answer: just ask Juanita.

Juanita Euka`s marvelous Mabanzo is out now, on Strut.

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