Kali Mutsa - Ambrolina

Ambrolina, Kali Mutsa
Shock, Chile
Rating: 80
by Enrique Coyotzi

I remember perfectly when M.I.A.’s debut Arular was released. The excitement of an artist merging so many genres (dancehall, electronica, hip hop, reggaeton) into a single pop record resulted in a cultural mishmash that gave a new meaning to the term "world music." Celine Reymond, a Chilean popular telenovela actress, has smartly taken advantage of her performing capacities and elaborated the alter ego known as Kali Mutsa. Her imaginatively invented background indicates she’s a famous 90-year-old performer, yet she was absent from the musical world for decades, until she recently made her comeback to present Ambrolina. Each of the five songs included in her exotic EP are grabbing on their own, charged with unpredictable flavors ranging from Bollywood-esque essence to Andean music, nuanced with gypsy vibes and sophisticated quirky electro. Similar to what the Sri Lankan controversial rapper did with her debut album, Kali Mutsa’s expansive spectrum of influences result in a highly original work.

Unjustly ignored by some of her country’s mediums, Kali Mutsa’s (which also happens to be a band) bizarre universe has attracted mainly foreign publications. Mutsa’s lyrics are a mixture of Spanish and Romani, so even hispanohablantes won’t know fully what she’s saying, but “la gata negra de Pachacuti" isn’t about words; her mysteriousness is grandiose, and the role of the character becomes essential as the voice that directs an atmospheric trip (strengthened by two nature sounds interludes) through Pachacuti’s fertile valley (“Jauja”) to the hot desert (“El Camello”). Hitting the nail exceeding each of the past demos, the production of Ambrolina is adventurous, psychotropic, and collapsing genres with imagination, audacity and originality. Opener “Tunupa” is infectious, rhythmic, and magic. Here Mutsa sings about a godlike man who gives birth to flora and teaches fauna how to speak. Diving into this song proportions an idea of Kali Mutsa’s ritualistic approaches and theatrical singing, sort of like the star of a big Bollywood production.

The dripping sounds of “Parachima” give atmosphere to the EP before we get to the outstanding, surreal “Jauja”, which speaks about Pachacuti's valley habitants who dance under the moon to Chon for abundant harvest and gastronomical feasts – you’d swear you’ve commenced an acid trip. Adding cohesion between tracks, second interlude “Tue Tue,” apparently a calm night through the desert, leads to the fantastic “San Cipriano,” probably the song where instruments are enhanced the most – trombone, clarinet, violin – and where Mutsa delivers some killer verses worthy of La Mala Rodríguez. “Ton King Dom” could be dubbed as the only ballad in here. Editor Carlos Reyes hit the spot when mentioned it’s Aterciopelados-ish. “Devuélveme al niño,” Mutsa cries in this mournful march. Concluding on a propulsive, energetic note, “El Camello” is demented and experimental, a warm closer that wouldn’t feel out of place on Björk’s eclectic Post.

Dispelling –once again- the myth that an actor cannot succeed creatively in the musical field (I mean, Charlotte Gainsbourg did it and she’s got such a thin voice), Celine Reymond’s alter ego Kali Mutsa is a provoking artist whose music (considering she’s supposedly 90 years old) at times feels ahead of its time. Ambrolina stands as one of the most ambitious extended plays of the year, which excitingly announces new possibilities to the World Music tag, packaged with inventive cosmopolitan numbers, introducing us a persona whose mysticism is both intriguing and arousing, and who has a bunch of evocative ideas yet to be cooked.