Samite as reviewed in Phantom TollboothMellow African instrumental melodies for fans of mood music and light, summery jazz.

Label: Musicians for World Harmony (
Time: 10 tracks /37 Minutes

When Samite (Sæm-ee-tay) Mulondo devised this collection, he decided to remove the one element that most people associate with his genre: percussion. “We wanted to take out the drums to get people to hear other parts of African music,” said the Ugandan-born, New York-based musician of this instrumental set, hoping to “still retain the music’s power and the ability to make people dance; to make it beautiful and deep.”

This is not an easy task – in much African music, drums provide the rhythm, which is as important as the melody. However, rhythm is still very present in Trust, but brought out by other instruments. “First Love” and “Infatuated,” for example, feature rippling highlife guitar to give them movement, while “Girl Grown Up” uses an electric baganda rhythm (I can’t believe it’s not reggae). Samite arpeggiates on kalimba, a thumb piano that is his own instrument of choice.

If Samite’s aim is to explore the options from across this continent, he has brought in plenty of colour to do so. There is a sauntering trombone or trumpet here, a sprightly piccolo or lazy acordion there, or a cello that responds to the guitar and kalimba parts behind it.

Once a refugee in Kenya from war in his homeland, Samite found his way to New York. After some time expressing his musical heritage there, he was asked to contribute to the documentary Addiction Incorporated. Trust comes from the music in that film, but Samite has brought in others to play many of his parts, leading to a wider palette of tones and more expertise. His main collaborator is Tony Cedras, a guitarist, who has worked with Paul Simon.

All proceeds from Trust will go to Musicians for World Harmony, a non-profit initiative to bring healing to people displaced and traumatized by conflict via music performance and music therapy.

There is little wrong with this release. It is very easy to enjoy and the reaction in my house was very positive. However, it does only last for 37 minutes, and that includes a final acoustic version of the title track that begins the set.

Trust is very east to listen to, with rippling rhythms and breezy melodies, but the lack of percussion may make it sound less authentic than most African releases. Yet, as it has been adjusted to Western ears, this will go down well with those who love light mood music and wispy, summery jazz.


Derek Walker

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