Namvula: Quiet Revolutions

Places in the Heart

Listening Post 153. The difference between Namvula Rennie’s 2014 debut album and her new release Quiet Revolutions mirrors the distinction between a short story anthology and a novel—on one hand a lovely collection in which each song reflects a specific musical universe, on the other an enchanting holistic sound expressing many facets of an integrated identity. The Scottish-Zambian singer-songwriter has imbibed folk, jazz, Latin, Afro-beat and traditional Zambian influences and become part of London’s heterogeneous soundscape—all of which nourish her graceful poetry and acute vision. The new album not only displays a coherent musical approach, its stories form a feminine circle of being—encompassing love and beauty, family and motherhood, war and sorrow, life and death—based on the artist’s own experience and that of women she has known and admired. She tells hopeful, melancholy and tragic tales, singing in Chilenje, Nyanja, Ila—among Zambia’s profusion of languages—and English. With its aspirational title, Niné Olimba (I Am Strong) is a guide to overcoming heartache (video 1). Zuba (Sun) a coming-of-age ballad inspired by Namvula’s teenage niece, advises, “Dance your own dance/Sing your own song” (video 2). Nkondo (War) highlights strength emanating from love, as opposed to force (Soundcloud audio 3). Other stops on the album’s circuit include Nikali Kuyenda (Night Song), the saga of a girl who turns to prostitution to earn money to care for her child; Nalile (I Cry), a traditional woman’s lament about a husband who forces her to kill successive infant daughters until she bears him a son; and Mbuya (Grandmother), describing the frustration of being unable to speak to a beloved figure with whom there is no shared language. The world is vast, but in Namvula’s warm and tender voice London and Lusaka seem as close in reality as they are in her heart. (NMR Records)

 

Niné Olimba/I Am Strong: “Just past this hill/
Is the sun.
Just past this valley/The sun is rising.

You may not see it now/Just have faith

Days are dark/
Nights are dark.

There is a brighter day/Just hold on

You may not see it now/Just have faith 

I am strong/
My heart will heal”

 

Zuba/Sun: “They all said that it will never happen
They all said that you will fall
/They all said that you are not strong

The way is hard 
(They all said)
The way is full of troubles (They all said)

Dance your own dance
/Sing your own song
With your face to the wind/With your face to the sun

Do not look at your troubles
Sun”

 

Nkondo/War: “You kill my son/
You rip the clothes off my daughter
The sky is burning
/The trees that grow make the forest

But my love
/Is stronger than war

But my love
/Is stronger than your war

I may not have an axe/I may not have a spear
I may not have a gun/
I may not fight like you

I don’t have much
/I only have my body
I only have my heart/I don’t fight like you

I may stand in the face of war
I would not be afraid”

 


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