A review of the debut EP, Timpana, ahead of the band’s summer gig schedule. First published on the Sunday Times of Malta.
It’s difficult to categorise and label Mana Tapu’s EP, amusingly named Timpana. This band’s music might be rooted in reggae and ska, but it also draws inspiration from a host of other sounds and genres that run the gamut from funk to blues, a little bit of punk and even that latino vibe. And it does so successfully, making Timpana an incredibly fun fusion. In fact, if I were asked to describe the sound of summer and good vibes I’d say that this band encapsulates it pretty neatly.
As bands go, Mana Tapu is pretty eclectic; the six-piece outfit is made up of Maltese musicians Frans Darmanin on bass and Dario Vella C on vocals and guitar, with Pupachile on vocals and lyrics; Jogy Bo on vocals, guitars and lyrics; Tete (aka Camacho Criminal) on vocals; and Andrew McGrath on drums adding the international flavour. The amount of band members is reflected in the richness of its music; each track boasts multi-layered arrangements, with some of the intros kicking off simply and escalating into a kaleidoscope of vibrant sounds soon enough.
The band started out playing casual acoustic jams on our beaches some three years ago. After winning the Rookies and the Hard Rock Cafe battles of the bands, Mana Tapu grew into the outfit that was responsible for some pretty memorable gigs last summer. And now, as the musicians gear up for what seems to be a pretty hectic season of gigging, comes this six-track, multi-lingual EP, in Maltese, English, Spanish and a spattering of French.
The list kicks off with the light-hearted B’Naqra Paċenzja, its catchy intro bringing to mind beachside bonfires and lazy Maltese evenings. The lyrics reflect this; it’s all about sweaty sessions rehearsing in the garage, jamming by the sea and the sultry lifestyle that spells ‘summer’ for many of us. The track switches between Maltese and Spanish most intriguingly – not to mention astonishingly, especially considering that the vocalist is not Maltese. Strangely enough, the decidedly non-Maltese accent of the vocalist is endearing, as opposed to annoying.
Gangland is next, with an intro that spells a totally different mood – more laconic and somewhat darker, in keeping with the title of the track. With vocals in English (again switching to Spanish for particular verses) and laidback riffs derivative of rhythm and blues and a touch of calypso, this track creates a contrasting mood to the previous one, more latino lover than total freak out. This one wouldn’t be out of place in the funkiest bars of Havana – the Cuban capital, not the Maltese club.
Keep on Moving changes the mood yet again with an energetic, vocals-driven piece (again, in English and Spanish); if this were an analogy to a party, I’d say that this track signifies that time of the night when things are taken a notch higher, with the initially relaxed riffs growing more insistent, until you can’t help groove to the tune, or at least tap your feet a little bit.
Kanta R Rima is somewhat reminiscent of the earlier Xtruppaw sound – energetic and catchy with its recurrent ‘Mana Tapu’ call – check out the video, which was just released last week to promote this year’s Malta Street Arts Festival, which this year moves from Sliema to Valletta. It will give you a good indication of what to expect from a typical Mana Tapu gig.
The last two tracks on the EP, Jah Gringo and Babylon Aside as the names suggest, show the strongest reggae credentials and both music and lyrics are a tribute to classic reggae . The last song, especially, will go down very well with fans of classic reggae and is a return to the roots of the genre, showcasing all those musical elements that make the genre such fun.
Mana Tapu will be performing live on the following dates and locations:
June 7 at Earth Garden, Roots Stage at Ta’ Qali, at 10pm;
July 26 at the Malta Street Art Festival, Valletta, Main Stage at 10pm;
August 2 at the Beer Festival on the Rock Stage at 10pm.