Gabonese singer Tita Nzebi talks about Baul music and her new album, From Kolkata
Nzebi has dealt with themes like family and dictatorship, apart from two baul songs in her new album
TITA Nzebi, the Gabonese singer, who is well - known for her blues, jazz and rumba numbers, will release her second album, From Kolkata, this month. The singer has collaborated with Baul singers Titash Sen, Gobinda Das Bairagya and Sandip Bag for this album. We caught up with the singer, who recently performed in Kolkata and Lucknow, as a part of her India tour. Excerpts:
Tell us about your new album.
I started working on this album when I’d come for my first tour in West Bengal, in October 2017. I had a clear idea of what this album should include after returning from the trip, hence the name. In this album, I address themes close to my heart, such as family and universal motherhood, respect for people, and the dictatorship in Gabon, through numbers like Ba Ngu (The Mothers), L’ghôbe (Respect), Dictature inavoué (Unacknowledged dictatorship), and others.
Tell us about the traditional music of the Nzebi people. What inspires your music?
Original Nzebi music has a wide vocal range, which includes onomatopoeia, jerky flow, and ululations. The syllables also change, depending on the tone we use. I compose my songs on the basis of Nzebi rhythms, and my music draws its content from the ethnic repertoire of Nzebi, a Bantu people from Central Africa, from where I also borrowed my artistic name.
Are your lyrics deliberately politically motivated or do you see this as a protest?
The dictatorship in Gabon and atrocities perpetrated by the military junta are well-known, but nothing changes. So, I say it using my only weapon — music.
Tell us about your journey so far...
For a long time, I did not pay attention to music, as CDs were quite rare in my village, and my family gave more priority to education. I apprenticed in music in 1998, while doing my postgraduate studies in Paris. I started performing solo at the bars and clubs. I aim to enable ethnic Black music to fit into the standards of modern aesthetics.
What do you like about the contemporary world music scene today?
(I like) That music offers outstanding occasions for ancestral culture to be discovered, and shared by more people. How sensitive is Kolkata to your music? During my last performance here, I was fascinated by the enthusiasm of the men and women in rural areas. The upcoming two concerts in Kolkata are a challenge for me because an urban audience is always different.
What else do you like about Kolkata?
This city is amazing with all the contrasts, of course. I have learnt a little bit about the history and the difficulties it faced in the past. I feel an emotional connect.