Releasing again on March 17th, A Message From Mozambique is a 50-year-old masterpiece, sublimed by Juju’s cosmic jazz and strong stances on Black liberation.
In the late 60s and early 70s, under Richard Nixon’s presidency and Angela Davis’ activism, a peculiar band moved the Bay Area’s jazz spots with great music. “As a band, we blew, pounded and stroked our instruments like there was no tomorrow, like our life’s work was wrapped up in each session. We approached our performances like religious rites and the music mesmerized, informed and awakened people, ” recounts James “Plunky” Branch, saxophonist and founder of Juju. Led by the arts and the pillars of Black Liberation, the instrumentalist met in San Francisco the future members of a band that would make noise way beyond music. First came the bassist Ken Shabala and the flute-player Lon Moshe, off of Plunky’s mentor band The Natives. Then joined theater-trained local musicians Al-Hammel Rasul on the keyboards, Babatunde Lea on percussions, and Jalango Ngoma on the timbales. Together, they led political and social activities in their area, and gave birth to a wonderful blend of free jazz and African rhythms on their first album “A Message From Mozambique”.
Released in 1973 through Strata-East Records, A Message From Mozambique served as a musical vessel for the band’s loud statements. From its opening track “(Struggle) Home” to its support for the “Soledad Brothers” inmates, the project focused on the struggles of their contemporaries both in the US and in countries such as Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa. Denouncing white supremacy and colonialism, the opus was deliberately and unapologetically political. Furthermore, the album was impressively avant-garde, bringing forward an innovative approach to jazz music. “This record was pivotal to us (Juju) because it was our first album release and I think it was also significant in that it was one of the earliest examples of African rhythms being fused with free cosmic jazz to make an international political statement“.
50 years later, the British label Strut Records is giving a second life to this timeless record, its 6 tracks – including the 11-minutes long “Make Your Own Revolution Now” – releasing on vinyl and streaming platforms on March 17th.