Perhaps the most rewarding part of being in Africa was the relationship I formed with Chico Antonio. We met one night between sets at a local live music club. I asked him if I could sing with him, and learn his music. I had no idea at the time that Chico is a very famous and respected musician in Mozambique. And one of nicest, kindest souls I have ever met. He took me under his wing and introduced me to his band, and invited me to rehearse with them. Often we would just spend time together, chit chatting, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. But my favourite times with Chico were when we practiced together, just the two of us, at his apartment. Calm, peaceful, focused.
We worked on three of his songs in his native Zulu language of Shangaan, a beautiful dialect that I will write more about in upcoming posts. On my very last day, sitting together in our favourite little watering hole, we sang the songs together, and I recorded them. I present them to you now, filmed by a very nice man named Emidio Noormahomed, who unfortunately I only met at the very end of my stay in Mozambique. But somehow he was sure our paths would cross again.
This first song is called Podina. Podina is the name of a woman Chico dated many years ago. She is upset, and even when she smiles, her eyes are not smiling. He is asking her where she is, and pleading with her to come back to him. This is maybe my favourite for a number of reasons. I love the sound, and how it makes me feel. Over several weeks, I also made several suggestions to change the some of the words and structure of the song, which Chico embraced and incorporated. No ego, just open. All the “home, home” parts, which sort of sticks in your head, and kind of gives the song a lift.
The second song is called Zizi, a young boy of about four years old, the son of one of his bandmates Jose Maria. They were practicing one day, and while he was playing with his toys, seemingly oblivious to the music, Zizi began speaking some of these words about how the sun was setting on Chico and Jose Maria’s life, and how his was just beginning. That nothing in life is forever. Out of the mouths of babes. Anyway Chico turned it into a song many years ago, and as you will hear, I added a little North American twist at the end. “Improv” as Chico refers to it.
The third and final song is called Sinongue, and it is about calling someone from the heart. Chico is playing a very interesting African instrument known as a thumb piano. His is a home made version that looks something like this, mounted in a construction hat for better acoustics.
Happy Easter, and I hope you enjoy this musical offering!