(2002, Real World)
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Dr. Hukwe Zawose was, for all intents and purposes, Tanzania’s musical ambassador. He was an educator, instrument builder, cultural conservationist and – most importantly – a charismatic singer and musician of singular abilities. He had already released albums via English labels Triple Earth and Real World; the latter’s proprietor, Peter Gabriel, thought that Michael Brook was the likely candidate to produce an album showcasing Zawose’s singular talents for an international audience.
Assembly merged the melodies of Zawose’s Wagogo tribe with science-fiction funk, the shape-shifting sound of a digitally enhanced roadhouse band. Shimmering thumb piano melodies and the many voices of Hukwe – some high-pitched and keening, others of seismic depth and resonance – were threaded within dense rhythmic laminates of sternum-shaking beats. All of the above were gilded with the signature tone of Brook’s infinite guitar. Again, Real World veteran Rich Evans played a critical role, co-arranging and co-producing the album with Brook.
Michael denies that there was an ordained design for Assembly, stating only that his production was inspired by the quixotic intensity of P18’s Urban Cuban; he wanted to help Hukwe make an album loaded with its fair share of energy and surprise changes. Recalling Dr. Zawose, who died in 2003, Michael notes “Hukwe was an unparalleled singer and musician. One of Peter’s main goals in proposing this album was to focus the world’s attention on Hukwe, as he deserved that much. It became one of my goals, too.”