Oka Vanga (a play on the name ‘Okavango’, a river delta in Botswana) is the band name for South African born Angela Meyer and William Cox. They met by chance at an open mic night in London in 2008, striking up a conversation in a break. Their instrumental music is a melting pot of influences, and they describe themselves as acoustic folk-world music. This is expanded on their website to ‘..a high octane guitar duo that combines instrumental Folk, percussive Brazilian rhythms, acoustic freestyle and North African music, to create music that is both rhythmically powerful and melodically rich.’
They are fortunate to own their own music studio where they teach guitar and run various workshops. This allows them to work on Oka Vanga material within a flexible schedule and still find time to rehearse.
Angela and Will play steel string guitars (a Taylor and a Lowden) but use very different techniques (classical guitar finger-style playing and plectrum). These differences are mirrored in their musical tastes, which stretch from Angela’s classical and flamenco styles to Will’s heavy rock and blues. With no words, the music has to speak to people on an emotional level as well as be entertaining. ‘We like to think that listening to our music can take the listener on a bit of a musical and geographical journey.’
Their debut album is unfortunately no longer available but their latest, Pilgrim, is due for self-release on June 28. The songs on the album were largely recorded as soon as the initial ideas germinated, to ensure that the creative energy was pinned down. They then jammed around the ideas to see which way the music evolved. This process tends to keep the arrangements tight and allows both guitar parts to intertwine and ‘weave’ more smoothly, an essential part of Oka Vanga’s sound given the different journeys the ideas come from.
They feel the descriptive titles of their songs has been effective in unifying Pilgrim. Their current favourite is track one, Beneath the Southern Sky which they say is ‘.. about looking up at the stars on a clear summer night.’
The breadth of styles has opened a lot of doors for Oka Vanga, particularly in the live arena. To date they have played in Folk clubs and World Music festivals. They were invited to perform at the international 2013 Madame Guitar festival in Italy representing the UK (along with Clive Carroll). Closer to home, they have played alongside guitarist Jon Gomm and BBC Folk Award winners Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin.
‘Every piece that we play has a story to it, so we are always happy when a member of the audience comes up to us after a show to say that they have enjoyed our playing and that they have been moved by one of our pieces of music. That’s all that any musician wants to hear. It’s great if you can write a piece of music that captures someone’s imagination.’
The Pilgrim album launch is on June 28 at Les Aldrich, an independent music shop in Muswell Hill, London. It will also be available through iTunes and Amazon and CD Baby.
Skull ‘n’ Bones
For more gig info and Oka Vanga events go to: www.okavanga.com