Introspective but confrontational

There’s a good reason Ozomatli chose Wozani to open for the band on its headlining tour in 2001.

Wozani and Ozomatli share a similar catholic (as in “comprehensive”, not “Roman”) interest in music. For Ozo, it’s Latin, hip-hop and jazz. For Wozani, it’s African, soul and — dare I say it — post-punk.

In concert, Wozani is a jubilant ensemble, welcoming but confrontational, energetic but grounded.

But on the band’s seven-song album, A Call for the People to Come (a translation of the band’s Zulu name), Wozani is much more introspective, almost a far cry from the exuberant band that primed Ozomatli’s audience at a concert in Austin.

Guitarist Jamila Guerrero-Cantor sticks to an acoustic instrument on the album, giving Wozani’s music a more subdued, organic feel even on such up-tempo tracks as “Throw Me Down” and “Nature.”

As such, songs such as “Friend” and “Nature” come across as almost folk-rock instead of grunge and alt-rock, respectively. Even “Kiya”, a workout of West African and rock music, sounds dramatically different without a chiming electric guitar.

Does such an intimate recording do an injustice to the band’s stage presence? Absolutely not. If anything, Guerror-Cantor’s acoustic playing emphasizes Wozani’s incredible skill as songwriters. Amplifiers do not equal talent.

Singer LamaKhosi Kunene has a wonderfully tender voice, and with Johari Funches-Penny and Shalott Wilson providing harmonies, the results are stunning.

While Wozani’s music may be introverted, it’s lyrics are certainly straight-forward. “I don’t want to be your fucking friend,” Kunene and friends sing on “Friend”.

“You can be a woman and be born with a dick,” Funene proclaims on “Seasons”, “or you can find a good man to pay all your rent.”

Wozani is an incredibly promising band, armed with tight, talented musicians and a set of worldly, throught-provoking, and most importantly, well-written songs.

See them live if they come to town, and make sure you get a CD on the way home.