Members of Kina Zore, a Boston-based band led by Helder Tsinine, play some pretty unusual instruments in their 2023 Tiny Desk Contest submission, "Covid 19." In addition to Tsinine on guitar and Galen Willett on bass, you see band members playing pots and pans, pouring water and employing jars of jam, pickles and even protein powder as drums. The band's unique approach to making its song is part of what made it stand out to this year's Contest judges (including Sharon Van Etten, who included the entry in an episode of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf). It's one of a handful of impressive entries Weekend Edition is featuring this summer.
Tsinine says the idea for the entry came naturally to the band members, who have been playing music together since 2009. "We were in the kitchen talking about submitting to the Contest and thought, 'we should just record it right here!'," he shares.
Sung in Tsinine's native language of Ronga, the song "Covid 19" reflects upon the everyday struggles many faced during lockdown, and also acknowledges that some were facing much bigger challenges, like war. He says he had the idea for the song while listening to NPR one day — he heard a reporter talking about numerous major conflicts throughout the world and it put his own lockdown experience into perspective. Tsinine says the song's refrain, "Sekelekane Mu Nyhima" means "please stand up and salute the doctors, teachers and soldiers who put their life on the line to help everyone in need."
Tsinine also shed light on the experiences and musical influences that shape his art. He grew up in Mozambique during the civil war and says he named the group Kina Zore in an effort to revive a forgotten traditional Mozambique dance by the same name. He didn't grow up with any instruments — he improvised with whatever he could find, much like his Contest entry video — but was fascinated by traditional African instruments and American rock musicians. Eventually he began playing guitar, and describes his musical style as a blend of those influences.