Angolan Music page One of Portugal's earliest African colonies, the Bantu-dominated nation of Angola gained political independence only in 1975. During the late '70s, the independence government positioned itself as a haven for African liberationists, and quickly found itself locked in opposition to the then-apartheid government of South Africa. Angola became ground zero for a fierce regional political struggle which included military and economic advisors from Cuba, and rightist guerillas, sponsored by South Africa and the U.S. Despite the political tension, some lovely music has come out of the Angola, notably the albums of Bonga, who is one of the nation's most revered artists. (Although the lyrics are not generally in Portuguese, I'm including info on Angola anyway, just to round things out...)





Albums

Waldemar Bastos "Angola Minha Namorada" (EMI, 1990)
An Angolan-Congolese expatriate living in Portugal, Waldemar Bastos is one of the most creative modern Angolan artists. On this early album, he finds himself a bit mismatched with a mix of standard-issue African pop (in the Parisian mold) and more ambitious, but profoundly irritating, orchestral pop and experimental folk stylings. None of it is suited to his strengths, which come out best in the quieter moments. If you enjoyed his better-known Pretaluz, this might be worth checking out... but I can't say as I would recommend it.


Waldemar Bastos "Pitanga Madura" (EMI)


Waldemar Bastos "Pretaluz" (Luaka Bop, 1998)
Bastos co-produced this lovely album with the help of Arto Lindsay, whose delicate touch is easy to spot. This is a perfect mix of acoustic balladry and the driving, ringing guitar styles of West Africa. It's gorgeous from start to finish, but also lulling and captivatingly subtle. One of Luaka Bop's best artist albums --highly recommended!


Waldemir Bastos "Renascence" (Times Square, 2005)
A fine Afro-Pop album by this Angolan expatriate... It's been a while since we've heard from Bastos, and this album -- his first made since visiting his native Angola in 2003, after an absence of twenty-plus years -- was well worth the wait. Bastos has reconnected with his native land and sings, in Portuguese and other tounges, of his hope for renewal and a bright future... His voice is starting to show the years, sagging a little and cracking around the edges, but his emotion is easy to hear, a plaintive mix of sorrow and joy. On first blush, this record seemed a bit conventional, but subsequent auditions brought out the subtlety and gracefulness that characterized Bastos's earlier albums, and it'll definitely grow on you. Bastos works through a variety of African styles, moving effortlessly between soft acoustic material akin to the whistful mornas of Cape Verde and more buoyant, electrified guitar music typical of West Africa. The only dud on the album comes at end, with a loud, intrusive raggamuffin rap (with guest vocals by Chaka Demus) that comes booming and bursting in after along, luxurious, set of markedly quiet, seductive tunes. So, skip that last jarring track, and you'll love this album... But ya gotta remember to keep your fingers on the pause button!



Bonga - see artist discography



Carlos Burity "Carolina" (Lusafrica, 1996)


Carlos Burity "Massemba" (Lusafrica, 1998)


Paulo Flores "Xe Povo" (Tratore, 2003)


Pedrito Do Bie "Angola We" (Maianga, 2007)
Newer pop-dance music with a little kid as the lead vocalist. Not mindblowing, but well-produced and kind of fun. Worth checking out.


Zé Estrela "Acabem Com Isso Angola" (Ovacao, 1994)
Light pop music, with tinkly keyboards and thin arrangements, though not unpleasant overall... A little lightweight, but with a sweet feel.


Paulo Flores "Vivo" (2005)
A 2-CD live set...


Guerra & Rosa Freitas "Angola: Um Pais Fabuloso No Mundo" (Africa Latina, 2003)


Helder "Com Fusao: Angola Novos Tempos" (Sons D'Africa, 2004)
Semi-frantic, modern kuduro music, with a clubby, hip-hop/baile funk-ish feel. Didn't do much for me. Big yawn, actually...


Kafala Brothers "Ngola" (1994)


Kafala Brothers "Salipo" (MB Records, 1998)


Lulendo "Angola" (Nola, 2005)


Ruy Mingas "Temas Angolanos" (Strauss, 1973)
A very pretty, uptempo album with a strong flavor of Brazilian samba not too far under the surface, as well as a bouncy African vibe as well. Quite nice!


Ruy Mingas "Monangombe" (Strauss)
A beautiful, and intensely political album by one of Angola's most prominent musicians (who has also served as the country's Minister Of Culture...) Nice acoustic balladry, with ornate but tasteful arrangements... A lovely album by an overlooked but very lyrical artist. Recommended!


Lilly Tchiumba "Angola: Songs Of My People" (Monitor)


Lilly Tchiumba "Angola" (Ovacao, 1994)
This appears to be the same album as the Songs Of My People record above...




Compilations

Various Artists "1975 - INDEPENDENCIA" (Tinder Productions)
A wide-ranging sampler of pop music from the countries which threw off Portuguese rule in the mid-1970s. A very enjoyable collection, and a nice guide-post to some of Africa's finest, least-known musicians.


Various Artists "ANGOLA 60s: 1956-1970" (Buda Musique, 1999)
Various Artists "ANGOLA 70s: 1972-1973" (Buda Musique, 2000)
Various Artists "ANGOLA 70s: 1974-1978" (Buda Musique, 2000)
Various Artists "ANGOLA 80s: 1978-1990" (Buda Musique, 1999)
Various Artists "ANGOLA 90s: 1993-1998" (Buda Musique, 1998)

An outstanding series which spans the length of Angolan popular music, from its traditionalist and Congolese-style rumba origins, through the peak years of the early '70s, and on into glossier material recorded in the '80s and '90s. The music is great, as are the liner notes, which among other things describe how many of the best bands were torn apart, politically co-opted -- and in some cases murderously liquidated -- by various military factions following the 1974-75 independence from Portugal. Many of the songs from the late '70s mask political material in pop coating... The music is no less seductive, though, and this is another magnificent series on this French reissue label. Highly recommended.


Various Artists "CANTA ANGOLA" (Universal, 2001)


Various Artists "POPULAR MUSIC FROM ANGOLA" (Sounds Of The World, 1994)
With music from Carlos Batista, Teta Lagrimas, Teta Lando, Milita, Gaby Moy and Robertinho...


Various Artists "PUTUMAYO PRESENTS: AN AFRO-PORTUGUESE ODYSSEY" (Putumayo, 2002)
Tracing the crosscurrents of Lusophone culture, this collection touches on music from Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and contemporary Portugal, with artists such as Ze Manel, Jovino Dos Santos, Dulce Pontes and the Mendes Brothers. The opening tracks are a bit florid for my tastes, but the simpler acoustic numbers, featuring folks like Ruy Mingas, Maneas Costa and Agusto Cegos, are quite lovely. A good introductory overview, with several melodic gems, although there are also a few too-pop tunes.


Various Artists "SOUL OF ANGOLA: 1965-1975" (BMG-France/Lusafrica, 2001)
If you get the chance, snap this one up. It's a great selection of rare, vibrant recordings from the waning days of Portuguese rule in Angola, during a period when the colonial authorities loosened their strict control of the local cultures and allowed an explosion of Angolan popular music to be recorded and broadcast over the airwaves. Many of these recordings have clear stylistic echoes of pop styles from elsewhere in Africa, particularly the buoyant guitar music of Nigeria, Mali, Guinea and other West African regions -- but there is also a strong local undercurrent, as long-suppressed tribal cultures finally found expression in the new national media. The poorly translated, politically tendentious French liner notes are not particularly helpful (although a dedicated reader could grind through the text and use it as a basis for further research...) Also, there is sadly little concrete discographical information, such as a recording dates, etc. but nonetheless this is a stunning compilation, packed with great songs. Artists include artists such as Oscar Neves, Paulo Pinheiro, Artur Nunes and Adolfo Coelho, as well as bands such as Os Bongos, Os Kiezos and Jovens Do Prendo -- all as obscure to me as they are to you -- and the song selection is uniformly high calibre and satisfying. If you love old African pop and are looking for new, unfurrowed territory to explore, this collection is really good. Highly recommended!




Links

  • Tinder Records has been one of the most exciting "world music" labels of recent years, and has certainly led the pack in the lusophone scene... This link will take you to their schedule of upcoming releases...

  • Buda Musique is an excellent French label that has issued several of the most striking world music series in recent years. Besides the ANGOLA albums above, it has had several great Brazilian releases, and the highly-acclaimed, multi-volume ETHIOPIQUES series. Top-flight stuff.

  • Musique Tropique is a small independent label that carries some of Bonga's albums. This is a link to an excellent biography page that they have posted on their site, along with some info about Angola and its independence movement.

  • Here's a glimpse into the political turmoil in Angola, courtesy of the World Trek website. I'm not really up enough on the politics of the situation to comment on this version of events, but it seems pretty neutral and informative.






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