(Anselmo Johanhane) was born and raised in Maputo-Mozambique. He grew up in a musical family where his father would sing, play guitar and electric organ and his mother would sing in traditional ceremonies and in the choir of the local Catholic Church. From an early age, Neco and his brothers and sisters got in touch with traditional music and dance through their parents and surroundings. Musical activities in and around church taught the children Western music. Folk, jazz, pop and world music all found their way to the Novellas through the broadcasts of National Radio in Mozambique.
All these influences lead to a music family-style the Novellas describe as "universal music", with its rhythms, melodies and harmonies reaching back to jazz, classical, and world music, and merging into authentic and multi-styled compositions. Add to this Neco’s deep ranged silky voice and you get a musical style that goes firmly beyond the definition of world music.
Neco explains: “Universal music sounds better to describe our music. It appeals to the heart and can be understood by the heart in any language. My lyrics are mostly stories about experiences connected to daily life, nature, rituals, family and friends.” The languages Neco Novellas sings in is a mix of local Mozambican idiomatic languages, South African languages, and Portuguese as well as English. “Sharing stories through music is what I aim to do. I want to share my experiences with the audience and make them part of it. So the more languages, the better!”
In 2002, after a career in Mozambique so successful that made Neco a national celebrity, he received a grant to study classical singing and guitar at the Academia de Musica Eborense and later at Universidade de Musica de Evora in Portugal.
Although Neco’s heart already lay with improvisational music and singing, he was eager to broaden his experience, and left his family, country and career behind. In the meantime, Neco’s brothers Nelson Novellas and Isildo Novellas traveled to South Africa where they performed with top musicians like Gito Baloi and Wanda Baloi. Neco’s sisters Cidalia Novellas and Isabel Novellas remained in Mozambique, performing solo as well as backing vocals for national and international artists including Brazilian star musician Gilberto Gil.
In 2002 Neco visited a number of countries in Europe. Holland attracted him the most, so he elected to pursue his studies at the Codarts Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. In Holland Neco's versatility came to the fore and after having introduced his music and compositions to local musicians and students from Codarts, he was asked to write the music score for the Dutch short film De Grijns (The Grin), shown at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2006.
Neco continued with his studies, leading workshops, performing solo, playing drums and also performing classical repertoire. His ultimate wish however was to at last reunite with his brothers and sisters. This wish was fulfilled in part when, in 2005, Neco’s two brothers enrolled at Codarts Rotterdam Conservatory. Their move to Rotterdam made Holland a temporary home base for their music and band. The sisters came to the Netherlands in 2006 for the official recordings of their first CD. Mita Famba, released on Pink Records.
Novellas’ new CD, New Dawn (Ku Khata), released in the US on Times Square Records, is a warm, African, jazzy, rhythmic album on which the entire Novella family is playing and singing. With songs in English, Xangana, Chopi, Ronga, Brazilian Portuguese – all of them written by Neco – the music is utterly bouyant and welcoming, the arrangements both immensely creative and perfectly disciplined. It is finally the universal music that Novellas always aimed for.