Of mice and men | Bangkok Post: lifestyle

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Of mice and men

On a desolate highway, the sound of the Malawi Mouse Boys rises up through the air

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The Malawi Mouse Boys' main line of business is selling barbecued mice-on-a-stick to drivers on a desolate stretch of highway in the land-locked Malawi. Food scarcity has made field mice a delicacy and the eight-member band works around the clock to flag down motorists to try their roasted wares. When there aren't any cars or trucks, in their downtime, the Mouse Boys write and perform songs played on instruments made from scraps of wood and bits of metal. They've been doing this since they were kids. 

Grammy award-winning producer Ian Brennan, who brought the Toureg "bluesmen" Tinariwen to the wider world, travelled more than 3,200km on the main highways and laterite tracks of the country. For two weeks he found no music and then out of nowhere, or rather as he puts it in the liner notes, just around the corner from the "Pack-and-Go" coffin shop (undertakers), on an isolated stretch of highway, he found the Mouse Boys strumming away on rudimentary guitars and home-made drum kits (hi-hat cymbals made from two bicycle cogs) and singing tight vocal harmonies.

Brennan field-recorded the Boys in Monkey Bay last year and the result was released on the IRL label early this year as He Is #1. I don't know of any other international releases of Malawian music, so maybe this is a first for the country.

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