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.
ANGOLA: SONGS OF MY PEOPLE (320)