I’m jealous of Gonçalo F Cardoso, and soon you will be as well, when you learn that he recently spent a month living in a beach hut in Zanzibar. What a wondrous time that must have been! The sonic evidence is preserved in this lovely LP, its design a throwback to a simpler time, indicative of the composer’s experience.
But first, it rains. Will this spoil the vacation? Not at all, especially when one has a month to spare, and children are babbling pleasantly in the foreground. It’s not until the rain suddenly gives way to the sound of waves and village song that one realizes the field recording is now a soundscape. Cardoso blends the sounds of nature and humanity in such a way as to emphasize the harmonic balance achieved by the local residents. Flutists duet with cicadas. Fishermen bubble excitedly about their day on the dhows. The community meets and greets, breaks apart for work, comes back together for play. And all the while, the tides come in and the tides go out in dramatic fashion: a 3km tide that exposes new treasures each time it recedes.
When one hears the sound of a shortwave radio, one recalls a time when communication tech was used more sparingly. During a recent trip to the Hamptons (the polar opposite of Zanzibar), I noted with much disillusionment that fewer people were in the water than on their cellphones; and only a handful (of hundreds) were walking. Instead of experiencing the healing effects of their environment, they’d polluted their experience by focusing on their machines. Many listened to music with earbuds, muting the wind and the waves: the antithesis of Impressões, which captures spontaneous singing, splashing and tribal drumming, while incorporating the cries of old world parrots. Often it takes a change of scenery to place our lives in relief: to expose what we have lost in the incoming tide yet still might retrieve. By focusing on simple truths, the artist demonstrates great wisdom. Unguja sounds like a wonderful place to visit, but more, it offers a more holistic way to live. (Richard Allen)