This is the debut album from Paris-based Rwandan singer Dorothee Munyaneza, who first came to prominence on the "Hotel Rwanda" movie soundtrack and on Afro Celt Sound System's 2005 album "Anatomic." Co-written and produced by ACSS's Martin Russell, it is the debut release on Russell's new surround-sound label, Luminary Records.
The first thing you notice when you open the package is that the DVD-A is Disc 1, while the CD is Disc 2. In other words, the surround mixes are the main attraction here--listen to them in 5.1 if at all possible! The DVD-A offers all 14 album tracks in either DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1, or stereo configurations, plus a bonus track ("Batanu"), artwork, and even mp3 files for quick transfer to your iPod. And if all of those incentives aren't enough, there's still the CD version on Disc 2 for those who like to kick it old skool.
As for the music itself, it is beautiful. The lyrics are not in English, but the songs draw you in even if you don't understand the words. The liner notes reveal a wide palette of emotions... there are songs about genocide and corruption but also songs focused on marriage and childbearing. Through it all, Dorothee's voice is a powerful, maternal presence. It is at times fragile and gentle and at others bold and assertive, often spanning both styles within the same song.
Is this "world beat" music? That label might apply. The sound is reminiscent of Geoffrey Oryema's albums on Realworld Records, and perhaps more recently, of Angelique Kidjo. "Njyenyine" is gentle and sad, with some beautiful saxophone accompaniment. "Godeliva" is more synth-y, upbeat and celebratory. The upbeat feeling continues on "Iteka," with handclaps and chants. "Agaciro" has big drums and rock guitar, while "Ingoma" features some tasty live bass and more saxophone.
Overall, this record is defined by its rock, jazz and blues influences. The songwriting is more concise than your typical Afro Celt Sound System 10-minute epic, and the sound is more organic and less programmed. Dorothee Munyaneza and Martin Russell have put together a great collection of songs and sounds. Hopefully this album will get the recognition it deserves, both for the music and for the awesome DVD-A mixes.