We had the opportunity to interview Shakmanaly, the voice, and Mista Uncleboss, the bass player of the band, just before they stepped on the stage of the Arci Ohibo in Milano, for a show that truly captured the audience.
JAmusic: What’s the story of Muiravale Freetown?
MF: Muiravale is the name of a small village in Mozambico where a missionary doctor, Alfredo Fiorini, lost his life as a victim of the guerrilla. He was from our city, Terracina, and was also the uncle of a member of the band - the drummer. The band was born after the song Hermano Alfredo was written and published in 2009 and dedicated to him and his memory. Nowadays in our first album there is another song, Trinity, which is a more mature, complete and complicated version of that first tune. We could say that the very existence of us as a band is a tribute to him and our music try to express his teachings.
JAmusic: How much has the band evolve since 2009?
MF: At first we were just five then we had some changes and additions till we have eight elements. But beside that what really changed compared to the first years is the way we approach the music, we are much more aware now of what we are doing. Maybe it’s also because after having worked and sowed so much we are finally seeing some results, and that gives us much more motivation in our approach to what we do. It almost became our job on many different levels: temporal, spiritual and emotional, and when we are on tour and we see people who live hundreds of kilometres away from us who know and sing our tunes it’s a feeling beyond words.
JAmusic: How did the collaboration with Paolo Baldini (bass player of Africa Unite and producer of, among many others, Mellow Mood) start and how is it to work with him?
MF: It all started with the European Reggae Contest of the Rototom Sunsplash. To take part in that we needed an EP with a more professional production of the one we made by ourselves, and it was immediately natural to contact Paolo. From there on the collaboration kept going on. We have the luck of having a studio to record in, so the first takes are always recorded there. Then we send him the music so that he can listen and work on it and then he usually comes up with different ideas and advises on how a tune can be improved or perfected. What we loved about working with him from the first time was that he never tried to impose anything, but simply suggested knowing how to improve our work. When you listen to our album you understand that it’s his production, but his touch is behind; it’s the band which is highlighted.
JAmusic: You sing in English and Patois, but not in Italian, why did you choose that?
MF: There were many reasons; first it was a rhythm issue, we felt that Italian was not so adapt to sing on an upbeat music as Reggae is, and we liked the idea of expanding our sound and so challenged ourselves with another language. We also thought that it was right to dream big, and imagining a future of playing internationally so English was the perfect language to pick to reach many more people. Being an Italian band it may be a little unproductive at first, but we got to dream big right? We learned the language by ourselves, listening to this music, and so it’s a great feeling to sing in it.
JAmusic: In the reggae world it’s becoming more and more difficult to find bands, what’s your perspective on that?
MF: It’s bad! (Laughs) Unfortunately much depends on the costs; obviously having just a singer with a DJ set is way cheaper. But to have the sound done by a band, for us, it’s a totally different thing. Even for the singer himself, to have a band behind changes him in a sort of an orchestra conductor, and forces him to pay a special attention to the audience to feel the different moments and adjusting the sound to that. Plus, working as a band we are always able to have concerts different form one another and that’s also a way to pay respect to the fans.
JAmusic: In your album there are so many different sounds, from Roots to Dub to Rap and even some rock…
MF: Yes, and
that’s because we all come from different musical backgrounds and we all put
our history in Muiravale Freetown’s music. Some of us have played in their
lives genres totally different from Reggae, and we are happy that some of our roots
can be heard in this album maintaining at the same time the true spirit of a
authentic Reggae production. It has something different and that’s our lives
before meeting with this music. In Nah Follow Them, for example, the
distorted sound of the guitar is something you usually don’t find in a Reggae
tune, but for us it was a way to put some of our past experiences in this
JAmusic: Last summer you opened Bunny Wailer’s show in Rome, how was that experience?
MF: That was a great experience! It was an honour and a great satisfaction for us and for all the work we had done and the passion which we put in our music to see that the Jamaicans there liked our show and our tunes, it was like a blessing. We also had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with the members of his band, and we had a great time with Carron McGibbon, the trombonist, with whom we are still in touch.
JAmusic: What would you suggest up and coming bands to listen to entering the Reggae landscape?
MF: To go old school, straight. It’s difficult to name someone, Marley of course, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, the foundations. Then a band we truly admire is Midnite, with their mystical holy sound. They are someone truly to look at.