Introduction to Voices in the Dark
Nearly 500 years after a group of Portuguese sailors landed on the shores of the Kingdom of NGOLA, three young men stepped out of a Boeing 707 at Idlewild Airport, New York. For the first time in three months they took a deep breath of clean, decent air, they were to get a sleep that was not a nightmare, and they were to realize what it meant to be FREE.
They were Angolans. Fresh in their minds were the bodies of their fathers fusilladed by the Portuguese soldiers, the marks of torture in the faces of their jailed brothers. Their own bodies were still sore from the hundreds of miles of walking through deep jungle, of swimming across crocodile infested rivers, to seek refuge in the safer grounds of the free world of love and democracy.
They were to be joined in the future months by other boys, and girls as well, arriving from Africa and Europe. All were seeking a chance to survive, and to grow without any strange forces holding them down, so that they could be fully useful to their country and people.
But they had a message—a message that is presented here with feelings told in a language of words and notes that are emotions and feelings in themselves, lifted out of their happy past and their perturbed present.
“Voices in the Dark” is the message of Angola—the message of tragedy that struck families and friends, the message of persecution and exploitation personally felt. All is expressed in this album: the happy people these creatures were, but are no longer, the hope for what is not, but will be, and, above all, the faith, rising above all doubts, in the love of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a God these people “used to worship through the elements of nature.”
Nine Angolans participated in this creative and inspiring experience. They are here in the United States under church and state scholarship, preparing themselves in different fields for the future of their people. One of these is Job de Carvalho, author and narrator of “Voices in the Dark,” studying journalism. Another is Mateus Ingles, self-expressionist on the guitar, a mathematics major. Others are striving for degrees in political science, education, social work or for the ministry.
The instruments used, besides the guitar--an instrument very much a part of the indigenous music in Angola--are a drum which stands three feet high, rattles made from an African fruit and seeds, a piece of bamboo struck with a stick, and a pop bottle tapped lightly with a stick.
Angola Ixi Ietu
(Angola is our country—
--With its wealth—in minerals,
vegetation, animal life,
Its beauty—the Pungo-Andongo rocks,
The Duque-de-braganca Falls—
Surely Angola is a good country,
“God gave a country for our people to dwell in. They called it NGOLA, after one of its most powerful kings. And, brother, what a country, that NGOLA!
“She smothered in her subsoil all the diamond, gold, copper, manganese, oil and other minerals that could turn any well-intentioned human creature into a pig-and-wolf. A pig that in his hunger want more, more and more; and a wolf that in his greed is menacing, bloody.
“But to our people the subsoil was a secret of the gods—indestructible, used only for burying the dead. Mysterious like the bottom of the great rivers that cut through the valleys; inviolable like the top of the mountains where the eagles laid their eggs.”
Tekela(This is a dance representing a social custom. The young man is asking permission from the elders before he gets a wife.)
“To say further, it is the same as trying to explain what was beyond the sunrise when the rays met in a blissful kiss with the awakening nature; or trying to prove that a twilight was beautiful after the sun set the heavens on fire; or yet trying to convince oneself whether the grace notes of the African night were songs, or cries!”
Po-Po-Po Mbolo-e(A simple game to test your reflexes is done with a group of more than three sitting in a circle. Stones equal to the number of persons are passed around. This game is only to call people to the social night, for the sound of stones on the ground is carried far away.)
“Anyway, God in His mercy sent rain down onto this earth of ours. He gave our people strength to work it. For them it was also a secret of the gods only, that they should know exactly the right kind of seed to sow at a due time, and that days later the soil opened to show out the little green tongues that would cover the land all over, grow and be corn, wheat, beans, potatoes, peanuts, manioc—in one word, FOOD!”
Saxi Ia Tema(A playful song in the moonlight.)
“Until the white man came….”
Lelemu(A song of hopeless love.)
“He stepped into our lives lifting a cross high above his head. ‘Peace!’ the cross said. Furthermore, it meant a new god, or rather the One God that we had always been searching for through the elements of nature that we used to worship—fire, wind, water, sun, moon. A God that was love, that gave love, that inspired love. And we were baptized, we entered the brotherhood of all men, regardless of race, or creed, or nation, in the name of One Father, One Son, and One Holy Spirit.”
Suku Eie Usovola(Africa recognizes the works of a High Spirit in the wonders of the universe. This is a hymn of praise, written and composed by an African.)
“But the white man soon realized that Ngola was more than just people to whom the gospel of Christ had to be conveyed. He realized that Ngola, with all her natural resources, was also suitable for other purposes. So he used the Bible as a weapon to tame our reactions, then he created another kind of gospel, the message of which was eloquently administered through the whip, the club, the ‘palmatoria.’ It was the gospel of Colonization.”
Ngila Mu Ita(Death is first mentioned in that one needs not to be sick, to go to war, to be bitten by a snake, attacked by a crocodile, to face death. It is enough to have the white man around. The first part of the song is sad, then it winds up to a wilder beat, meaning that a man who suffers, someday will just have to do something, perhaps even kill himself.)
Aviao, Ngongue(Many things were brought to Africa that were not for the people of Africa to understand and partake. In this playful dance, people are sorry for the swallow who lost its place in the sky for the sake of the airplane—just like the blacks on the earth did for the whites.)
“People lost their lands, mothers lost their sons, wives lost their husbands, girls lost their betrothed.”
Kioso Ngandu-fua(Death again. Father is in the cotton field. Mother is on the road working. Brother—I don’t know where he is. Sister was taken away by a white man. I want to die, but when I die who will bury me?)
Kinjila(A mother loses her son. He was sent to forced labor. She hopes that someday he will come back…. So, every day, she cooks, gets everything ready and sits in front of the hut, eyes on the road, waiting for him. “Kinjila” is the “Big Bird” that took her son, and she sings that it may bring him back.)
Tala Ki Uabange(See what you’ve done! You got your power, your reputation, but look what you’ve done to me! Is this fair?)
“For men were rounded up from their villages to the coffee plantations, boys were wrenched from their girls’ arms to the mines, children were snatched from their mothers’ breasts to the roads. Their toil was free; and on the little land they were left to sow food, they were forced to grow cotton!”
Ai, Ai, Ai!(Wake up, oh people in sleep! Look at me. I was left in misery—no parents, no village, no home, no friend. Oh sun, oh moon, I’m tired of this bitter life. I can’t bear it anymore!)
“All this, Ngola took….”
Ngi Mona Ngumba(I’m so lonely, I wander about aimlessly, I have no heart. What shall I do?)
“However, a doubt arose in her soul, as to how valid to her children was that word called ‘love,’ so much preached but not practiced, not lived. What kind of religion, what kind of god was that? Who was it for—whites or blacks?”
Eie Pala Ua Ngi Nganala(Why have you cheated me? I’m surprised that a friend could do this to me. We were friends, brothers; then you double-crossed me. Why?)
“Nevertheless, the spirit of Christ’s gospel remained. As one of our greatest preachers put it, ‘The Word of God is like bread. You want it or you don’t want it; but don’t say it’s no good.’”
Kuimbila(A Negro spiritual: “Rockin’ All Night.” Mothers losing their sons is an old story: Mary herself used to rock her own baby in the silence of the night; then she lost him—because of men, for the sake of men.)
“Because of the past, and all along the ill doings of the gospel of Colonization, Ngola has been trailing the path of progress; for growth has to be stimulated by inner conflict. Progress is an expensive good, and the fact that we have to pay a little higher for it may mean that God himself has been working it out in a way that we may come to appreciate Angola and love her the more, in terms of a land that has been fertilized with the sweat, the tears, the flesh and the blood that have been poured onto her. Therefore, if truly, truly, God’s finger is in all the despotism, the cruelty, the savagery today ravaging Ngola, there is hope, then. Therefore, the Lord be praised!”
Itaie, Nzambi, Kia(“Come, Thou Almighty King” and “Spirit of the Living God” (hummed) are familiar tunes to western ears. These are the only borrowings in this work, although western music is widely used in Angola.)
“For what does it matter, a man without his hut, a woman without her man or son, a girl without her right to say ’no’ to Mr. White’s lustful desire? What does it matter, a few villages bombed, a few men deported, a few others jailed, and others yet crushed to death? True, this is the path for the white man’s power and security, and the effort cannot leave room for kindness—not even to a brother, baptized in the name of the same Father, the same Son and the same Holy Spirit. But it hurts, that brothers should kill each other for something they could share.
“But what does it all matter now? Now, what matters is tomorrow, when all the shadows of this dark, tormentous night shall shrink, humiliated and surrendered to the brightness of the new day!”
Wonderful Friend!(To close, we call your special attention to this hymn. Intonations are western; however, it has authentic African flavor when sung by an African, for the words and the music were written by an Angolan.)
Voices in the Dark Prayer
“Beasts in the jungle dark
Birds in the sky;
I search for meaning
In life low and high
O Wonderful Friend,
No fear can frustrate me
When Thou art nigh.
“Brothers bring blessings rich,
Love true and pure;
Lifting my hands and heart
From curse to cure.
O Wonderful Friend,
Give will and wisdom
To do and endure.
“Mountains and valleys join
Praising the King;
Sun, moon and shining stars
United to sing:
O Wonderful Friend,
Through all the universe
Let Thy truth ring.