Good Music We Can Know

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Exciting Voice: Lilly Tchiumba- Angola, Songs of My People (1975)

I am a great lover of Duo Ouro Negro, but I'm not too proud to say that I am mostly ignorant of both the greater Angolan music scene of the 60's-70s, and its cultural and political context. I have only the most tertiary understanding of the fight for independence from Portugal, or the civil war that followed, and I know virtually nothing of the region's folklore and history.

But good lord, fellows, Angolan music can be so beautiful, so rich. You needn't be educated on the region to at least know that, and feel its power. It doesn't end with the sunny harmonies and deep pathos of Duo Ouro Negro, either. There is also (among others) the incomparable Lilly Tchiumba. Released, I think, in '75-- the same year Angola gained its independence (and the same year that saw the start of the civil war)-- this is a record of Angolan folk songs, sung in the Angolan language Kimbundu, in the most gorgeous, exuberantly sorrowful voice imaginable. Nearly every song is a rousing delight, yet nearly every song is deeply mournful-- full of mortality, suffering, and remembrance. The back cover of this record details the narrative of each song, and it's startlingly real-- dealing with stark subjects like death, memory and loss, and gender politics.

For "N'Zambi": A mother is torn between her reverence for God and her helplessness to save her sick child.

"N'Gongo Giami": A young man is dying and he does not know why. He asks his mother why this must be.

"Manazinha": A beautiful woman, however much she is dressed in luxury, is still the victim of colonialists.

Here's the actual back cover, do yourself a favor and read it (click to enlarge):

This is legitimately moving stuff, very sad obviously, but the marvel of it is how deeply beautiful, how ecstatic and transcendent, it is. You have to hear this. You have to. Her voice is a living river of mournfulness and human passion, the supporting chorus has the bottomless ancient sound of a ghost slave song, the guitars twinkle like a dancing wooden skeleton. Amazing.



Anonymous said...

Wow. This is a masterpiece. Thank you very very much.

Harry Badaud
Hill End, New South Wales

Holly said...

This is beautiful, Flash. Thank you for sharing. If anyone wants to preview songs, Smithsonian Folkways can assist:


Flash Strap said...

I hadn't seen that, Holly... I had no idea this was available! Not a bad way to spend some money, folks, if you got the fliff.

Feq'wah said...


There's lot's of good stuff from Angola.

Flash Strap said...

There really is, I'm trying to get deeper into it. Os Kiezos, Ngola Ritmos, Teta Lando...

walkingtrees said...

back on the nets, thanks for sharing strap!

loopulo said...

thanks for sharing this really great music

Échangeurs d'airs said...

Glad to see my post of Lilly Tchiumba on this blog. Great blog! If you want a link for a copy of this album in 'flac' format just ask me and i'll sent it here.

Anonymous said...

The album is incredibly good, an instant favourite of mine.

What happened to her? .... any other recordings ??