Time for TATAMANA (Hold Onto What You Love) by BATILA
Written by africancrest on November 11, 2021
TATAMANA is the outstanding, debut album from Congolese/Angolan singer-songwriter and musician, BATILA. TATAMANA is a fifteen track album whose title translates from Kikongo as ‘Hold Onto What You Love’ which for BATILA includes personal freedom, parental love, black love, fighting for one’s rights, freedom from self-imposed limitations such as self-hate and doubting one’s own abilities. TATAMANA is an album with personal and political commentary from BATILA yet sung with catchy rhythms and beautiful vocal hooks and harmonies.
The songs on TATAMANA are sung in English and Lingala, each song with a unique message, each song bursting with Bantu soul. TATAMANA fires off with BLACK LOVE,
“Ignorance is the trigger/And you have been triggering me for a while… Black people multiply/
Black love fortify/Black woman unify…” BLACK LOVE is a perfect political pop song with multiple layers of meaning, yet minimalistic lyrics. It is no coincidence that BATILA chose to hold a traditional Congolese mask on the cover photo, a mask that symbolises great beauty and strength and comes from a deep-rooted tradition but also has modern meaning. As a modern Bantu storyteller, BATILA says,
“I chose this mask carefully as a reminder of my ancestry, as a homage to the culture and art of my birthplace. It’s new, present and mysterious at the same time.”
BATILA has written ‘TATAMANA’ on the cover using Mandombe, a new language revealed to Mbanza-Ngungu in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1978 by the prophet Simon Kimbangu. It is based on the sacred shapes and , and intended for writing African languages such as Kikongo as well as the four national languages of the Congo: Kikongo ya leta, Lingala, Tshiluba and Swahili.
BATILA is a master of understated relevance, as a modern story-teller and political commentator, the album has minimalist lyrics yet maximum relevance. KINDOKI is a song dedicated to the theme of voodoo or witchcraft. Devalued by the imperialists as ‘black magic’ or ‘mumbo jumbo’, this spirituality fell into disrepute. BATILA calls upon his ancestors in KINDOKI and asks for this knowledge, these supernatural powers, ‘this magic’, “My soul won’t be sold again to non-believers.”
NABOYI is a song of resilience which translates as ‘I refuse’ or ‘I don’t want’. NABOYI references Congolese activist and prophet, Simon Kimbangu, killed by the Belgians for enlightening the Congolese people, one hundred years ago in 1921. Simon Kimbangu is believed to be the child burned on Kongo Empire prophet and leader, Kimpa Vita’s back,
“I don’t want mental slavery/fighting for my rights/ I don’t want superficiality foreign spirituality/
Mfumu Kimbangu ya nga/Mfumu Kimbangu is mine/Let them talk their heaven talk/hell is for us all/you either write the book/or you get fooled by their false interpretation.”
WHAT ABOUT ME is a standout song on the album. It is about finding personal independence from stereotypes, a song that is about breaking free from the confines that we impose on ourselves and that the world also imposes on us. It’s about freedom from limitations. WHAT ABOUT ME is a very catchy song with positive lyrics:
“And don’t you tell me now/ What about all night shifts that you’ve worked so hard/What about that hustle just to be someone/What about me the one you say you love/Let your light shine.”
BURNING FLOWERS, ZOLA and JAZZYBELLE show that BATILA is just as comfortable writing songs of love as he is making social commentary.
BATILA Ange da Costa was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and raised between Berlin and London as the first- born child to a set of Congolese and Angolan parents. BATILA’s name proudly comes from his grandfather and is Kikongo meaning “one who protects, conserves and holds it together.” As BATILA says,
“I am proud and in love with Congolese music so you can always find a little bit of my childhood sounds in it… That’s why I also name my sound Bantu Soul… it’s music for my people. Everything and nothing inspires me. I am a very melancholic but not a sad person. I dedicate my music to music- lovers, people who like to dive a bit deeper without sounding too intellectual. I dedicate my music to the youth and my generation in the diaspora, who are not fighting to be accepted by the white man. I AM, I don’t need permission, I don’t need to be cool, trendy.”
Berlin is a haven for international musicians. All the songs on TATAMANA are written by BATILA and recorded live with his band, The DreamBus and many other great musicians between Berlin, Paris and Kinshasa. BATILA plays acoustic guitar on all tracks apart from JAZZYBELLE and BA NZAMBE YA SE. TATAMANA was recorded at Trixx Studios, in Berlin which has been frequented by the likes of Billie Eillish, Nicki Minaj, Fleetwood Mac, Bryan Ferry. TATAMANA was also recorded at Berlin’s Neon Nursery Studios and the DRC’s Sabab Studios in Kinshasa where many great Congolese musicians also record such as Iyenga, Jean Goubald Kalala and Bana OK. TATAMANA was mixed by Mighty KK and Damian Press and mastered by Mighty KK.
TATAMANA is a well-crafted, well-written, well-produced album with superb vocal performances.
After hearing a demo of the TATAMANA in the summer of 2021, Germany’s well-established label, Galileo Music offered BATILA a distribution and publishing contract for TATAMANA.
TATAMANA is the perfect expression of a modern man who knows what he wants and what he does not want, it is a collection of songs that say something important and will no doubt shape a strong road for BATILA’s future success. TATAMANA releases through Galileo Music on 19 November, 2021.