Mango Groove on their latest album, 'Bang The Drum'

After nearly 21 years, Mango Groove is back with a bang. They took time out to answer a quick Q&A about their new album

Flags flying, hearts on sleeves, Mango Groove is at it again, giving us new South African anthems with their personal flair in a comeback album of note. Dependably groovy and inclined to be moody at times, the compilation is clearly an extravaganza. But don't take our word for it – hear what the band has to say on the subject! 

Can we tell you a secret? ”My Blue Ocean'' went through four entirely different treatments before we settled on our favourite: simple, ambient, heartfelt. Before that it was tablas, choirs, rock guitars, Mongolian chants, Peter Gabriel synth samples and so on.

The album would best be played at a party, initially, and at maximum volume; on the way home, bang it into the car stereo and get a little introspective (and hopefully be deeply moved) as you listen to the final few tracks. The album is very much a journey for us, and some of our favourite numbers are towards the end. I love ''Belong'', for instance, which is very much about being South African. The album is good for a road trip under our huge South African skies.

People say it sounds a bit like Mango Groove. Which was exactly what we wanted -  a 'roots'' album, but at the same time infused with the contemporary influences that one absorbs through the years.

It's true that ''Lay Down Your Heart (Bagamoyo)'' is a love song, but above all it is a song about slavery. The Swahili lyrics were written by John's dad.

We'll be happy if the album has the same effect on people as previous Mango albums (i.e. makes them feel good, and hopefully makes them proud to be South African).

Our favourite tracks on the album are 'Hey' and 'Belong'. They represent the two sides of Mango Groove: in the case of 'Hey' the fun, pennywhistle party sound; while 'Belong' shows our more introspective side.

We called the album 'Bang the Drum' because it is all about celebration, being proudly South African and having Fun! Fly the flag, dance the dance, party the party!

When we listen to our previous material, this album feels just right. It sounds like the same band that recorded the first Mango Groove album more than 20 years ago, but with a 21st century edge.

We really found the recording process a positive and enjoyable experience. We thought it might be a bit of a challenge, given the break and the fact that we were taking it very seriously, but the truth is it was all fairly instinctive.

We couldn't have cut this record without the unconditional support of our label EMI, to be honest. Mango Groove albums are always big projects that take a lot of time, and it meant a lot that we were given the means and input to realize what was in our heads.

If we could write a dedication on the album sleeve to you, we'd write: this is for all South Africans wherever they may be in the world, for giving us the inspiration and confidence to keep Mango Groove going for 25 years. Here's to the next 25!

Would we do it again? Oh yes! Almost feel ready to go for it again already, actually! It was such a lovely experience being creative in the Mango Groove style again after such a long break. It was especially lovely and affirming being back at Audiolab, the studio where we recorded the first two Mango Groove albums.

If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy all Mango Groove's earlier releases, cunningly compiled into a Best Of compilation called 'The Essential Mango Groove'.

You can get 'Bang the Drum' by Mango Groove at most good music stores as well as online via Kalahari.net or via digital download at Exact Music, i-Tunes and Nokia Music Store.

Claire Johnston is not the only diva on this sharp continent; Melanie Scholtz is another down-to-earth celebrity. We also chatted to Freshlyground about soccer and success.  Or check the latest events listing for live music shows.

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