Spaniard recovers 640 traditional songs from eastern Angola for preservation and appreciation

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A project to enhance musical heritage has recovered and digitized 640 traditional songs from the cultural collection of the Angolan province of Lunda Norte, as well as creating schools of music and local folklore instruments.

Research carried out over two years in the villages of the province by Spanish musicologist and composer David López Sáez resulted in the recovery of traditional songs, a work that can be seen until March 19 at the Camões Cultural Center in Luanda.

“Thambwé: Recovery, Enhancement and Dissemination of the Cokwe Musical Heritage” is the name of the project developed in that province, which gave rise to the Thambwé traditional music school and another of the region’s musical instruments.

The digitization of the Phonographic Fund of the Regional Museum of Dundo, capital of Lunda Norte, was one of the results of the work carried out in the region as part of this project, David López Sáez told Lusa, highlighting the importance of research for Angolan culture.

The museum’s collection consists of recordings made in the mid-20th century by the now-defunct Angola Diamond Company (Diamang).

“The aims of the project are the recovery, transmission and dissemination of the Cokwe musical heritage. We have an exhibition here that explains everything. Among the results we have achieved is the digitization of the Phonographic Fund of the Dundo Regional Museum,” said Sáez.

According to the coordinator of the project, funded by the European Union and co-financed by Portugal’s Camões Institute for Cooperation, to the tune of 40,000 euros, the 640 folk songs recovered have already been delivered in digital format to the Angolan Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Likembe, kakholondondo and muyemba are some of the traditional Angolan instruments, commonly known as quissanje (a type of idiophone whose sound varies according to its shape and is caused by its vibration), on display until the 19th at the Camões gallery in Luanda.

The instruments were made by young people from the village of Cambuaji, who receive ongoing training from adults/teachers to preserve and value the region’s musical culture.

“[The school] is a fundamental pillar, in the sense that one of the axes of the project is transmission. So the school is to pass on knowledge of traditional Cokwe music to the new generations so that this culture can be better appreciated,” said David López Sáez.

The Spaniard, from the La Mancha region and resident in Dundo for the last two years, said that he was encouraged to take up the project by the director of the Kapossoca Angolan Orchestra, where he works, and he is happy with the results of the project, despite the difficulties of transportation to the villages.

David López Sáez, 41, who was responsible for all the research, highlighted the commitment of the communities, who embraced and participated in the project, and the positive result achieved.

With the process over, the researcher is now asking the Angolan authorities to ensure that it is “put to good use”, calling for the phonographic material, now in the possession of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, not to be forgotten in a drawer.

“I hope they make good use of it, I mean, it would be a shame for it to remain in a drawer. The songs they’re learning at school are the very songs that have been digitized, so the idea [was] to rescue them and pass them on,” he insisted.

For the Spanish musicologist and composer, the project should encourage and awaken greater interest, especially among young people, in the quissanje instrument, recalling that it is visible on the back of the 1,000 kwanza note (Angolan currency).

The exhibition, which has been open to the public since last Tuesday, February 27, also portrays the project’s journey with photographs and provides QR codes, allowing visitors to listen to various Cokwe folk songs using a cell phone camera.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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