Freshlyground - Nomvula
Although the seven, ethnically-diverse members of Freshlyground are drawn from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa, anyone looking for interesting "world" music from Nomvula is likely to be disappointed. The template here is western pop - mainly in the range ballad to mid-tempo. I'd Like, for example, could be the missing link between LeAnn Rimes' How Do I Live and Coldplay's Trouble, while Father Please does a decent impression of one of Madonna's haunted ballads.
Yet the best point of reference for Freshlyground is perhaps The Corrs - and not just because of the violinist. The feeling that the album could have been conceived for the tourist board is never far away. Bar Zolani Mahola's occasional switch to native vocals, the ethnic elements are kept unchallenging. It's overly tasteful and sometimes alarmingly trite. Take the lyrics to Doo Be Doo, concerning universal love, politicians listening, and, well, people just getting along. Given South African history, this is perhaps understandable, but it's easily the most annoyingly chirpy song I've heard in a long time.
Following slow-burning success in South Africa, Freshlyground are now looking to reach out to a global audience. The plan might work; blandness certainly travels.