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The folks who brought you Brazil, the Portuguese, were the Renaissance envelope pushers — extreme explorer / traders like the Polynesians and Phoenicians of earlier times. They were also hard-nosed colonists who didn’t limit themselves to South American real estate. Portugal’s African territories once hung like a pendant on a colonial necklace stretching from Rio to India. Today, the Afro-Portuguese music that remains tells a story as complex and faceted. It is a music born of colonization and of slavery, a simultaneous speech of homesick sighs and lusty exuberance for life.
The Portuguese were among the first to arrive and the last to yield to independence in Africa. A rare military coup in Europe (in 1974) ended the colonial regime and brought a belated liberation to the African territories. Music played a crucial role in the peoples’ struggles for self-determination and continues to serve as trans-cultural catharsis.
The first chapter in the tale of Afro-Portuguese music takes us to Cape Verde. These nine inhabited islands due west of Senegal are the cultural and shipping crossroads between the North and South Atlantic. Their name has been made a mockery by drought and wind. But music has thrived here, in an abundance that has spilled over to a “tenth island” of emigres to America, Europe and Africa and a truly trans-national music scene has emerged.
Cape Verde, initially settled by the Portuguese for re-supplying ships servicing their far-flung empire, also functioned as an off-shore base for the slave trade. On this arid way station, Portuguese and Africans created the world’s first creole society, a rich intermingling of languages, traditions, and music. The resulting musical forms include the coladeira; the morna (the national song form, minor-keyed and evocative of fado, tango and classic blues. The name is said to come from the American description “moaner”); and the funana (a double-time quick step, most common on Santiago Island, played originally on accordion and scraper). Electrified, funana was the soundtrack to the independence movement in the early 70’s. Each of these forms have evolved around African and European influences, creating a multi-cultural melange of sound and rhythm. As with diamonds, oil, coffee, and other “essentials” which have fueled the carnage, Angola has been a mother lode in the history of African musical/ceremonial diaspora—a major feeder into Cuba, Brazil and all the carnival scenes (New Orleans included). Whether it’s those chunky “Luanda merengue” dance tracks or the sublime, burbling kickback of Bonga, Angola’s sounds have a fascinating appeal. In a sense, this music is not only another link between Africa and Europe, but a connector in the crescent of sounds from the west, center and south of Afro-pop.
The Afro-Portuguese story would be incomplete without São Tomé and Principe. These islands of the coast of Central Africa were also way-stations in the slave trade, but, unlike Cape Verde, their lush interior has made them plantation islands devoted principally to cocoa. Two local acquaintances (a Portuguese/Angolan emigre and a Cape Verdean/American jazz musician) separately said the same thing, months apart, as they mused over some Afro-Porto tunes: “This music sounds funny sometimes; but it sure smells good.” Smells? Carlos explained, “Like Manchupa (AKA Cape Verdean succotash), mwamba (palm nut stew), parties down by the docks”… Marcos was more cryptic as he sucked on a Sagres beer. “Memories,” he grunted, “like radar down in my gut.”
-Daniel L. Kahn
Read more at: http://luakabop.com/telling-stories-to-the-sea/
1. Bonga - Mona Ki Ngi Xica
2. Vum Vum - Salaté
3. Fihel Astirem (You Must Act)
4. André Mingas - N’Zambi
5. Africa Negra - Bo Lega’ Caco Mode Bo
6. Waldemar Bastos - N Gana
7. Cesaria Evora - Bia Lulucha
8. Tulipa Negra - Tulipa Negra
9. Bana And Paulino Vieira - Amor Divino
10. Livity - Rosinha
11. Pedro Ramos - Luis Di Kandinha
12. Jacinta Sanches - Cizinha Ka Bale
13. Dany Silva - Mama Africa