African troubadour Bonga is one of Angola's major stars, an artist who came to prominence in the early 1970s, when Angola was still torn apart by a brutal anti-colonial civil war. For many, he came to represent a new national pride and independence -- those political connotations may be lost on outsiders, but the beauty of his music is hard to miss, and all these decades later, Bonga's music still sounds as pretty as ever. Here's a quick look at his work...
Bonga "Bonga '72" (Morabeza/Tinder Productions)
Reissue of the first fab African-pop album by one of Angola's most beloved stars, former athlete Barcelo de Carvalho (aka Bonga...) This disc spans a wide variety of styles; reflective acoustic music to bouncy, highlife-flavored dance tunes. The content was politically subversive, having been recorded after Bonga fled Angola to live in European exile... the mere fact that these songs weren't sung in Portuguese was in and of itself a strong politcal statement. Still, no matter what language you speak, Bonga's voice and sense of melody are quite moving -- definitely worth checking out.
Bonga "Bonga '74" (Tinder Productions)
On his second solo album, Bonga began edging into the poppier production that would mark much of his later career. This album has its moments, but is a little stiffer-sounding and less reflective than Bonga '72, a bit more prefab. It's okay, but not quite as moving. However, the album is notable for its broadened scope - here Bonga sings in Portuguese on several tunes, and embraces a variety of styles, including Brazilian pagode and Cape Verdean mornas, reflecting the excitement, optimism and sense of shared purpose in the former colonies, as Portugal withdrew from Angola and its other African possessions in the early months of 1974. Includes his version of the song "Sodade," later made famous by Cape Verde's Cesaria Evora.
Bonga "Raizes" (1975)
Bonga "Angola 76" (1976)
Bonga "Racines" (1978)
Bonga "Kandandu" (1980)
Bonga "Kualuka Kuetu" (1983)
Bonga "Marika" (1984)
Bonga "Sentimento" (1985)
Bonga "Massemba" (1987)
Bonga "Reflexao" (1988)
Bonga "Malembe Malembe" (1989)
Bonga "Diaka" (1990)
Bonga "Jingonca" (1991)
Bonga "Paz Em Angola" (1991)
Bonga "Geracoes" (1992)
Bonga "Mutamba" (1993)
Bonga "Tropicalissimo" (1993)
Bonga "Traditional Angolan Music" (Playasound, 1993)
Bonga "O Homem Do Saco" (1995)
Bonga "Preto E Branco" (1996)
Bonga "Swinga Swinga" (Piranha, 1996)
Bonga "Roca De Jindungo" (1997)
Bonga "Dendem De Acucar" (1998)
Bonga "Mulemba Xangola" (Lusafrica, 2000)
Nearly thirty years down the line, and Bonga is still running strong... Some may find this acoustic-based release a bit on the lighter side, but I think it sounds fine... Very much in keeping with his older work. At sixty, Bonga's voice is getting a little gravelly, but he's far from diminished as an artist. Worth checking out!
Bonga "Kaxexe" (Lusafrica/Times Square, 2004)
A rich, resonant, beautiful acoustic-based album by Angolan pop star Bonga, who has been recording since the early 1970s. The years have treated him well, and this is one of his best albums yet, with the calm melancholy of age apparent in every performance. Hints of Portuguese fados and Cape Verdean mornas creep in on several tracks, but mostly it's the power of his considerable charisma that comes through loud and clear -- this is a fine, melodic album by a veteran performer... Well worth checking out!
Bonga "Maiorais" (Lusafrica, 2004)
Bonga "Bonga Live" (Lusafrica, 2005)
Bonga "Bairro" (2009)
Bonga "Angola" (Playasound, 1988)
Bonga "Paz Em Angola" (Rounder, 1991)
Bonga "Katendu" (Melodie, 1993)
Bonga "20 Sucessos De Ouro" (1995)
Bonga "Angola 72-74" (2007)
African Music Index
World Music Index