Assembled under the artistic directorship of Victor Gama, Tsikaya is a superb example of how music is rooted in the society it comes from. The musicians from the interior of Angola – many of whom endured years of war and social unrest – took Gama’s open mic offer at face value to send messages to the capital Luanda and the world beyond.
In general, much of Gama’s work draws its power from an interest in wedding sound to surroundings; here, the relationship is explicit. Gama, a Portuguese/Angolan musician and artist with a deep knowledge of the African country’s culture, began the Tsikaya project in 1997 as a way of recording musical heritage in Angola’s rural expanses. An open call for musicians has produced some fine work, a small amount of which appears here. Stand-out tracks (most are untitled) come from instrumentalist Inácio Chigando, singer Rodrigo Sekulo, and Ovaina Voinaimwe – two teenagers who play a guitar (made from a piece of wood and metal from a tank) and an oil drum. The musicians can be seen and heard on a fantastic website accompanying the project that makes use of Google Maps to locate the bands and give information and context. This is the first of the many CDs planned in the Tsikaya series. It cannot be over-praised.