Angola Soundtrack: Hypnosis, Distortions & other Sonic Innovations 1969-1978 – By Anna De Mutiis
This second volume of ‘Angola Soundtrack’, recently released by the never disappointing ‘Analog Africa’, takes us to Luanda in one of its most complicated and exciting historical periods: the immediate pre-and post-independence era.
This excellent compilation of 21 tracks, put together by Samy Ben Redjeb, gives us an insight not only into the various international ties and influences of musical genres that Angola experienced in the 60s and 70s, but also to the fascinating role music played in Luanda’s expanding musseques (townships).
Exploring each track you begin to understand how each band reinterpreted the variety of influences on their music, blending them together with outcomes that are always rich and entertaining.
This melting pot of influences comes, of course, from specific historical connections.
Many of the musicians had been exposed to Portuguese music, especially in the 1950s, after an influx of settlers, forming (especially in Luanda) various cultural associations.
With the arrival of these settlers, many assimilados (a term given to African subjects of the colonizing Portuguese Empire, who, according to Portuguese legal standards, had reached the necessary level of ‘civilization’) lost their jobs and were forced to move to the musseques. Here they would listen to other forms of music, in addition to the traditional songs they were used to.
The influence of Brazilian samba, a constant presence throughout the album, (e.g. ‘N`Hoca’ – Tony Von), can be traced back both to the advent of radio and the musical tastes of Liceu Vieira Dias, the leader of one of the most important bands of the 1950s, ‘Ngola ritmos’, to whom many bands during the 70s looked back for inspiration. He was also one of the first musicians to put into practice the idea of playing local forms of music on European instruments (especially guitars).
Many other important influences can also be traced in this compilation. For example, in the track ‘Senhor Doutor’ by Quim Manuel, we can clearly see the influence of the guitar style of Congolese Rumba. Cuban Rumba and Son are also present – most clearly in Os Kiezos’ ‘Saudades de Luanda’ and ‘Fuguei Na Escola’ by Teta Lando.
Another interesting thing to note is that Merengue, and in particular the musical style developed in Dominican Republic, had a huge impact in the country, to the extent that it gave the name to one of the record labels which flourished in the period. In particular you can see its influence in ‘Mabelé’ by Oscar Neves. Interestingly, a lot of Latin American music of this nature arrived in the country in the form of vinyl transported by Congolese truck drivers who crossed the borders.
Moreover, the advent of radio and the spread of electric guitars led, as the title of the album suggests, to experimentation with new distorted sounds, as the hypnotic delayed electric guitar solo in Avante Juventude by Os Anjos demonstrates. It was this varied and multi-referential sonic cauldron that prepared the ground for such an outstanding productivity of Angolan bands in such a short time.
Also, as in many other African countries during the pre-independence era, all these bands contributed to the process of definition of what being Angolan meant, constantly looking for a music that could express a sense of unique ‘Angolanidade’ (Angolaness).
There were also historical reasons for the high-level of musical productivity during this particular time.
After the anti-colonial war began (1961) many Angolans decided to join the rebel forces in exile. To avoid more people following the rebels, the Portuguese authorities tried to win the support of the Angolan population by offering new jobs and improving the country’s infrastructure. They started to promote literature and music at a local level, something which fostered the opening of many clubs in the musseques. This had a significant impact because, for the first time since the rise of Salazar in Portugal, Angolans had public spaces where they could go to listen to bands playing live.
Bands started to rehearse regularly and became competitive, steadily increasing the quality of their music. The city council began to fund festivals which would take place in different neighbourhoods every weekend. This strategy of ‘panem et circenses’ had an unexpected consequence – the festival creating an opportunity for people from different neighbourhoods to meet and spread ideas about the fight for independence. Many musicians were in fact supporters of independence and the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola).
These festivals and their musical output were an important part of the fervent and turbulent period that surrounded the independence era and is well-represented in this compilation. The period 1969-1978 saw the rise of a short-lived recording industry in Angola, from which approximately 800 records were produced.
Finally, the music had one other essential task, other than fostering national identity and independence: it brought people together to dance!
One of the most famous bands of this time, Oz Kiezos, was named after Kimbundu word that means ‘brooms’. As historian Marissa Moorman says: It meant they were so good at making people move on the sandy dance floors of the musseques’ nightclubs, that they were like brooms that would raise the dust.
So, be ready to explore unique sounds, to be captured by hypnotic guitar riffs and to raise some dust.
Anna De Mutiis is a freelance researcher particularly interested in music and migration, with a focus on African music. She has collaborated with MTV World and Nomadic Wax.