Mumford & Sons: Johannesburg


You search all your life
Stealing all you find.
You stare at your own hands
Not the hands they entwine.

~ Ngamila by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, and The Very Best

I have loved Mumford & Sons since 2010, when Entertainment Weekly happened to mention them. I had been starving for new music and decided it couldn't hurt to take a few minutes to listen to one song. That song was "Little Lion Man" and pretty soon after that I bought the CD. Every release I have been excited to find out what they've come up with next, moving from heavily folk influenced to more rock and now to a collaboration with African musicians. It's been quite a progression, one that never stagnates.

I have barely mentioned Mumford & Sons' music before. I just never found the time. I have something written about "Wilder Mind" somewhere in my drafts. A big F.U. to all those that hated their new direction and thought the band should just mindlessly stick to what they've done in the past and not experiment out of their comfort zone. I'm so glad they did, because "Wilder Mind" is one of my all-time favorite albums with a host of incredible songs with unforgettable lyrics. It's a pity I didn't get to that review. In fact, it seems I put music recommendations on the back burner all the time. Well, that's not going to happen with "Johannesburg." I'm supposed to be working, but I can't get it out of my head. Doesn't help that I'm listening to it right now over and over.

"Johannesburg" may be just an EP, but that's no reason to skip it, if that's what you were thinking of doing. More bands should release songs between their full albums, which can take so long to create. I thought when they released the first song, "There Will Be Time," and then the second, "Wona," that the rest of this tiny album couldn't possibly live up to those two beauties with lyrics like these.

In the cold light I live to love and adore you.
It's all that I am. It's all that I have.

~ There Will Be Time by Mumford & Sons and Baaba Maal

You don't want to suffer for your art.
You don't want to vivisect your heart.

~ Wona by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, The Very Best, and Beatenberg

But I was wrong.

"Fool You've Landed" and "Si Tu Veux" are also great songs, but "Ngamila" is the one I've paid particular attention to. Much of it I can't understand, sung in three different languages as it (and the whole album) is. There are no translations up as of yet, not even the original words so I can go find a dictionary. That doesn't matter so much, though, because the English parts sung by Marcus and the music itself set quite a beautiful tone. Mumford & Sons has always has some gorgeous lyrics, and this song is no exception.

You have all you need
When you're held by me.
Don't pine for what's not
And whatever will be.

~ Ngamila by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, and The Very Best

If you're hesitant about buying this album, you don't have to worry about lyrics in a language you don't speak, because they become part of the melody. You can enjoy them without having to know exacty what they mean. And someone will eventually get those translations up. Those languages are Chichewa and Pulaar, according to sites that have the English lyrics.

What a fantastic result came out of this collaboration with Baaba Maal, The Very Best, and Beatenberg. I always appreciate my favorite bands trying something new. Since I was young, and listened to Rhythm of the Pride Lands (music inspired by The Lion King) probably a hundred thousand times, I have adored languages and music from all over the world. An album like Johannesburg may do that for others and that's a wonderful thing.


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