Creating Opportunities: A Collaborative Music Project in Mozambique with John Lino

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The Global Entity
e30s1 Creating Opportunities: A Collaborative Music Project in Mozambique with John Lino
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Unfolding an exciting music project in Mozambique

Hey fam, I am still here! Those of you who follow me on social media know that there have been a lot of amazing and exhilarating things happening for me on the festival front lately.  Today, however, I want to share a project that has been brewing silently in the background for a good while now. A super exciting music project in Mozambique!

When I first arrived in Maputo in January 2023, there was one thing that stood out to me in particular. Maputo has such an abundance of live music and performances! Never have I been in a capital where the culture is so available, not just economically but socially. Sure, there are entry fees at clubs and events that limit who enters. But from what I’ve seen, the majority of the events here somehow manage to include and cater to the majority. Never have I existed in a nightlife scene which is so non excluding like the one in Maputo. It is quite unique to find a social context where people not only meet but actually hang out and enjoy each other’s company across social categories like class and race. It makes for very interesting conversations when you are out and about in the vibrant night of Maputo… and for a very easy going, come-as-you-are kind of a vibe, which I adore!

Local Gem in Maputo: Nucleo de Arte

My favourite place so far is probably Nucleo De Arte, a multi-purpose space for creatives. Nucleo de Arte is an art association, dating all the way back to 1921. On Sunday’s it opens up its stage for local artists to come and fill it with live music (watch here), it always feels like everyone in Maputo is there. The best part of Nucleo de Arte is hands down its backyard where the artist workshop lies. Visitors are allowed to enter!

Paintings upon paintings are stacked upon each other against every wall that is also overflowing with art. If you start looking there are no limits to the gems you will find. If you are lucky, some of the artists will be hanging around, maybe even working on their next piece. The perfect opportunity to pick their brains or maybe even find your next creative teacher! Unfortunately, it lies in a residential area making every Sunday a noise battle with the neighbours. It is unclear if Nucleo will be able to continue having these Sunday live performances.

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Meet John Lino: Mozambican multitalented singer song writer

Two months into my Maputo stay I was dealing with heartbreak. Long distance relationships are hard. I was distraught. On the third day of moping around the hostel, Lino, the part bartender and part receptionist, stole a guitar from somebody nearby and started playing the most beautiful song for me (watch here). It wasn’t till days later, when I wanted to find the song online, that I learnt that he had made it up on the spot. I was amazed!

A few nights later, we sat down for a jam session. In under an hour Lino improvised no less than eight different songs. All with their own lyrics, chords, and bridges. My mind was blown! “How come you are not doing this full time?” I ask him in awe. With such talent he should be blessing everyone with his music!

The reality for local artists in Maputo

He looks at me and smiles. “It’s very hard to make a living as an artist in Mozambique. Haven’t you noticed how many artists we have here and how almost nobody works with it full time?” His answer makes me reflect on the past conversations that I’ve had in this city with different artists. It is true, there are very few who don’t have a second or even a third job to support their dreams. And the ones who have managed to work as artists full time have often had the opportunity of working or studying abroad first, an opportunity which is highly sought after but given to very few.

He tells me “Being a musician in Mozambique is a dream for many young people here. They dream of big stages and of being recognised nationally as professional musicians. In many ways, being a musician here is no different from the rest of the world. On the other hand, trying to create a sustainable music career in Mozambique is very complicated. Firstly, we have a lot of gate keepers at the big tv and entertainment stations that only let in already established artists. Secondly, having access to a proper recording studio is an economic question and many of us artists, like myself, end up having to take a second job to support our music production.”

Lino continues “If you are a new musician on the scene, your visibility is directly correlated to what you can pay, it has very little to do with the music itself. Furthermore, most musicians in Mozambique come from very humble backgrounds and the basic salaries here do not exactly provide enough as it is. Therefore, creating music gets put in second place, there is no way to pay for that when you have to put food on the table.”

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Behind the scenes in the music industry of Mozambique

A few weeks later, Lino gets invited to play two of his new tracks on morning television. I get invited to come with them! I know that five year old me was doing pirouettes of excitement at the prospect of going to a TV studio. As we enter, the production of the show is already in full swing. Another Mozambican artist is performing and we get asked to wait on the couch.

A man comes up to Lino and greets him. Under a few minutes he talks excitedly about Lino’s new single and the promotion they could do for the song. It all sounds very promising which is why I feel confused to not see any excitement on Lino’s face. “Why are you not happy?” I ask him as the man walks away. “Eix Julia, what that man forgot to mention is that it costs more than I make in a month to do that kind of promotion.”

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The humble beginnings of John Lino

One morning, I find myself sitting at the bar of the hostel. It is humid and even though it’s earlier than eight o’clock it is hot as hell. “How come you started making music Lino?” I ask him as he makes my morning espresso.

“You know I am originally from Maputo/Matola. But from the age of two to fifteen I grew up in the province of Gaza. Gaza is a very poor province in Mozambique and we hardly ever had access to electricity. To entertain ourselves, the kids on the block used to sing and mess around. At that age I was only dancing and playing the drums. It was kids songs but still, music has always been a part of my life. When I was fifteen years old, my father died and I moved back to Maputo. Here it was rap and hiphop that was dominating the streets. One day I happened to tag along with a friend who was recording in a studio. For some reason, he wasn’t able to do it and someone said that I also know how to rap. I improvised some bars and before the day was over I had my first song produced. It wasn’t professional or anything but back in 2012 it felt huge!”

“Wait, wait, wait! You used to be a rapper??” Having heard his songs I hardly doubt his ability to rap, but it is miles from the style that he has today.

He laughs and answers “Yes! I even started a rap band in 2012. I realised after a while that I really liked singing and started trying out some RnB but I couldn’t really identify with the music. Eventually I started doing more Marabenta, a happy, up-beat Mozambican music. And now I am here, with you, about to release my EP and have my own launch!”

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The Live Through Your Heart Project

A little over a year ago, I decided to leave my whole life behind in my home country in order to follow my heart. I was in love but more so, I wanted to give myself time and space to learn to live from my heart rather than living so strategically. As you know, it has been a tough journey but one I would not change for the world. I know now that following your heart is a luxury very few can afford. At the same time, I am fully convinced that if we all lived in alignment with our hearts, our purpose, we would be happier and less destructive as a society. Therefore, when Lino told me he was about to release his latest EP, through Youtube only, I asked if he wanted to do a collaboration and launch it with a bang!? First he didn’t believe I was serious and then the biggest smile I have ever seen appeared on his face. “Serio?” For real?

Said and done! On the 25th of November Lino is taking over the city of Matola to properly receive his new music. Through endless conversations and voice notes back and forth, the idea started growing… Now, we want to do a music project that will help other musicians be able to get the same opportunity. Lino explains “This EP release is part of a bigger dream. Yes, I am releasing my EP and I am very happy about that. But to be able to pull together young artists and offer them to share the stage with me, feels even bigger. I want to create opportunities for artists where we don’t have to wait to be recognized by the promoters of the industry. We can make our own spaces, create our own opportunities to meet the people and spread our music.”

To say it is going to be fantastic is an understatement. As we say in Moz, vai bater! 🔥🔥🔥If you want to be part of this project, creating a music stage for up and coming musicians in Mozambique, let me know in the comments! Or send a DM on my socials or an email to X. Whether you are a Mozambican sponsor or a private person far away, there are ways you can contribute. Let’s make it happen!

If you are curious to know what happened next, take a look at John Lino’s instagram! Support him by subscribing to his YouTube and other social medias.

3 thoughts on “Creating Opportunities: A Collaborative Music Project in Mozambique with John Lino”

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