SILITA - biography
A girl and two boys. A singer and backing vocals soaring free over the jubilant gallop of percussion and timbila, the wooden xylophone of the chopi people. The trio have not forgotten the teachings of their elders: to strike out into the future, you must first look to the past. They care little for passada (local zouk) and marrenbenta (the country's seminal musical style). So what is their aim? Purely and simply to uphold and promote the traditional music of Mozambique.
The keystone - the swinging, bouncing backbone of Silita's music - is first and foremost timbila, the characteristic instrument and music of the chopi people, an ethnic group from the south coast of Mozambique to the north of Maputo. Their xylophone tradition already flourished in the 16th century according to the English ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey (International Library of African Music). As a secular tradition, it has stood firm against all comers: the 19th century's regional Zulu invasion, Portuguese colonialism and the civil war. Handed down from father to son and master to pupil, timbila goes on and on. In order to master the complex forms of this music with its swelling waves, Silita travelled to its birthplace, Zavala, in the heart of chopi country, where children are introduced to its secrets from the age of five or six. Each year, there is a great timbila festival in Zavala where huge xylophone orchestras rival in virtuosity. Venâncio is a key personality in chopi music: the most celebrated leader of these great swaying ensembles, he has given conferences in Holland and the United States. In 1992, the year of the Rome agreements that marked the end of the civil war, he travelled the world with his Timbila Ta Venasi band. A key figure in Mozambican culture, he is the uncle of Simão Adriano Nhacule, the lad who conjures melodies from strips of wood for Silita. Simão has spent much time with his virtuoso uncle and could not have hoped for a finer teacher.
In December 1999, Simão, Lourindo and Tania - all three members of the song and dance group at the Community Arts Centre - felt they were ready for the great challenge and formed Silita. Resolutely rejecting commercial styles and deaf to the advice of friends who warned of impending disaster if they insisted on performing traditional music, they forged themselves a path with determination and energy.
In March 2000, they caused a sensation at the Semaine de la Francophonie (event organised by the French Cultural Center). The adventure had begun. Three months later, they recorded their first album in Paris. It is an eloquent letter of introduction, overflowing with natural, wood-toned sounds and presenting fresh styles of music with meaningful lyrics. Sung in the chopi language and shangan, their songs tell of timbila events in Zavala, pay tribute to Mozambican heroes such as Samora Machel, independent Mozambique's first Marxist head of state, encourage social conscience and the protection of cultural heritage, and promote positive attitudes.
Album “Ziva Tako” - CD 362372 Lusafrica