Since claiming independence from Portugal in 1975, Africa’s seventh-largest country retained its inhabitants’ love for rhythm and storytelling. From semba’s binaural spirit to kuduro’s fascination with the ephemeral, we will introduce you to five of Angola’s top artists.
The gritty yet consoling vocals, the choppy and chiming stringed instruments and the soft patter of drums—these elements are what trailblazer José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho (aka Bonga) is all about. He’s credited with popularizing the serene, cautionary semba genre, which equally shows up at parties and funerals. His Angola 72 album spoke out against European colonialism, resulting in a warrant for his arrest. He has lived nomadically since the 1960s and has also earned accolades for his track and field prowess.
With a voice like Mariah Carey’s at her most seductive, Pérola turns R&B on its head with Portuguese invitations and strutting kizombatempos. Her stage name translates to “Pearl,” and her stunning presence and sex appeal upholds that majesty. She’s sung for the Angolan president and appeared on a show called Divas Angola (she certainly gives U.S. divas like Toni Braxton and Solange Knowles a run for their money). Her newest album, Mais de Mim, is out now.
First off, a tip of the hat to anyone who calls himself Afrikanus. The bassist and backing vocalist for Angola’s most ferocious troupe gels with growler/guitarist Mauro Neb and drummer Thiago Andrade to create a fast-paced, in-your-face experience. Notable single “War Heads” is a middle finger to the civil war that plagued the nation through its existence. Since Neblina formed in 2001, the members have replanted their roots in Brazil, the U.K. and other regions, and they’re knee-deep in the process of making another record.
It might seem crass to glorify a genre whose name essentially means “hard ass.” But kuduro is one of Angola’s most vivacious exports. The king of the scene, Tony Amado, popularized the hip-shaking style, a mélange of samba and classical folk instruments. And if this biography is to believed, action star Jean-Claude Van Damme is indirectly responsible for its rise. Whether it’s true or false, Amado’s work will get you out of your seat and kicking with flair.
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