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Bonga: Angola 72

Angolan singer Bonga belongs to that group of musicians whose controversial work, intolerant of free flow of ideas and viewpoints, earns them status as displaced artists. During the ’70s, Bonga-who had changed his name from his given Portuguese moniker, Barcelo de Carvalho-spoke out in song during a fragile time, when Angolans rebelled against Portuguese colonialist rule. His album Angola 72 (Tinder 42846642; 42:48), originally recorded in the Netherlands after being exiled from his homeland, documents his earliest recording and has just been reissued domestically by Tinder. The political themes charging his songs may be lost on listeners outside the language loop, but his passion is tangible.

The music intrigues on its own: the Afro-Portuguese connection runs hot on the album, as he sings in his warm and gruff voice over roiling, guitar-driven rhythms that remind us of Brazilian counterparts. Of course, the roots of Brazilian music were imported from Africa and Portugal. After Angola achieved independence in 1974, Bonga came home and has sparked political and musical awareness, but this archival example of art-in-exile captures a special intimacy and intensity.

Originally Published