Shantytown Revolution: Angola Soundtrack 2

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This record is full of remarkable guitar playing. There is lots of singing too but for me it’s the sheer brilliance of the guitar that wins my heart and ears. Angola it seems is the dark horse of the African music sweepstakes. Hundreds of years of closed colonial rule under the Portuguese followed by decades of civil war, the story of Angola has only fairly recently begun to be told. Not as well known as Afrobeat, soukous, benga, South African jazz or juju (at least in the non-specialist’s world) Angolan music has flown under the radar.

 

But the civil war is over (a decade ago) and life is returning to normal in one of the world’s richest countries. The Analog Africa label deserves copious amounts of praise heaped upon its institutional head for producing some excellent collections of Angolan gold! Today we share one of them, Angola 2 Soundtrack: Hypnosis, Distortion and other Sonic Innovations 1969-1978. Lest the title give you the wrong idea, this is not African industrial metal or something like that. Certainly, they are right to suggest the hypnotic qualities of the music (especially the guitaring) but for my money there is precious little distortion (in a negative sense) on these tracks. Just a couple hours of sounds that slowly reveal themselves and work their way into your soul.

 

Angolan music, though cast here in modern western clothes of guitar, bass and drum, has its roots in a multitude of ancient rhythms, dance and oral poetry styles. During the later part of the colonial period when a political consciousness was emerging in the public at large, the music took on a political tone. Which is not to say that every tune was a protest song or overtly political. Rather music and the clubs in which the music was played became a cultural rallying point for a generation determined to rule itself. As a result the authorities both used music and musicians as a foil to divert the critical gaze and when that failed, attacked the same musicians and their art as incendiary.

IN 1961, FOLLOWING THREE AGGRAVATED UPRISINGS BY FARMERS AND INHABITANTS OF THE MUSSEQUES, THE COLONIAL STATE BANNED CARNAVAL IN ANGOLA. IT WAS THE CLEAREST FORM OF CULTURAL SUPPRESSION AFTER A MYRIAD OF POLTICAL AND MILITARY CONTROLS TO THAT DATE. HOWEVER, THE COLONIAL GOVERNMENT’S STRATEGY INCLUDED BOTH REPRESSION AND REFORM. THE REPRESSION WAS AGGRESSIVE BUT ECONOMIC REFORMS ALLOWED FOREIGN INVESTMENT INTO THE COUNTRY, AND CHANGES TO THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF THE COLONIAL SYSTEM ALLOWED ACCESS TO EDUCATION AND THE PROMOTION OF ANGOLAN CULTURE

RESPONDING TO THESE OPENINGS, ENTREPRENEURS IN THE MUSSEQUES OPENED A NUMBER OF CLUBS THAT PROMOTED RECREATIONAL AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES IN THE CITY’S NEIGHBORHOODS AND SHANYTOWNS; MORE THAN TWO DOZEN OF THEM. CLUBS LIKE MAXINDE, CENTRO SOCIAL DE SAO PAULO AND SALAO DOS ANJOS BECAME CREATIVELY FERTILE SPACES FOR THE EMERGING BANDS OF THE 1960S. AS A RESULT OF THE PIONEERING SPIRIT OF CLUB ORGANIZERS AND YOUNG MUSICIANS, LUANDA’S NIGHTLIFE SAW AN EXPLOSION IN ANGOLAN POPULAR MUSIC.

ONE OF THESE ENTREPRENEURS WAS LUIS MONTES A PORTUGESE CIVIL SERVANT WITH THE COFFEE INSTITUT. MONTES FOUND WAYS TO PROMOTE THE BANDS AND MUSICIANS OF LUANDA’S TOWNSHIPS BY BRINGING TOGETHER PORTUGUESE BUSINESSES, THE ANGOLAN CENTER FOR INFORMATION AND TOURISM AND THE RECEPTIVE CROWDS OF THE MUSSEQUES TO SET FIRE TO THIS SYNERGY.

IT ALL STARTED IN1958: MONTES, A FAN OF ANGOLAN MUSIC BEGAN SPOTTING AMATEUR BANDS CREATED BY THE CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS OF THE MUSSEQUES. THESE MUSICAL GROUPS, CALLED TURMAS, HAD LEARNED THEIR TRADE BY ACCOMPANYING THE CARNAVAL GROUPS OF LUANDA AND ITS ISLANDS. THE TURMAS WOULD PARTICIPATE IN THE FIRST MUSIC SHOW ORGANIZED BY MONTES ON A FOOTBALL PITCH BEHIND IGREJA DE SAO PAULO IN LUANDA. THE FIRST SHOW PRESENTED NEGOLEIROS DE RITMO, [TRACK 11] A BAND THAT WOULD BECOME HIGHLY INFLUENTIAL. THEIR SINGER, DIONISO ROCHA, WOULD BECOME THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR FOR MONTES A YEAR LATER. HIS ROLE WAS TO SCOUT FOR BANDS THAT ECLIPSED THE OTHERS AND RECOMMEND THEM TO MONTES.

Luis Montes

Luis Montes

WITH THE BAN ON CARNAVAL STILL ACTIVE, THE TURMAS THAT CHOSE TO TURN TO MONTES TOOK A MORE PROFESSIONAL CHARACTER. THEY STARTED TO INCORPORATE GUITAR SOUNDS THAT HAD BLOWN ACROSS THE OCEAN FROM THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS AND FROM THE CONGO, AS WELL AS OTHER INFLUENCES.

 

AROUND 1964 MONTES BEGAN TO IMAGE A DIFFERENT FORMAT THAT WOULD ALLOW HIM TO PRESENT TALENTED BANDS TO LUANDA’S SUBURBS. WITH THE SPONSORHIP OF NOCAL, A BEER COMPANY, MONTES CREATED AN OPEN-AIR-LIVE-MUSIC CIRCUIT CALLED THE ‘KUTANOCA’.

KUTANOCAS CONVENED EVERY SATURDAY IN THE DIFFERENT MUSSEQUES FROM THREE TILL SIX IN THE AFTERNOON. THE SAME LINE-UP, MADE UP OF THE BEST BANDS OF EACH MUSSEQUE WOULD TOUR THE VARIOUS SUBURBS.

THE SHOW WAS SUCH A HIT THAT PEOPLE OFTEN TRAVELLED FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER TO SEE THE SAME SHOW THEY HAD SEEN THE WEEKEND BEFORE. THIS MEANT THAT MUSICIANS BEGAN TO DEVELOP A FOLLOWING AND IT GAVE THEM A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF EXPOSURE AND PERFORMANCE EXPERIENCE.

THE MUSIC THEY PLAYED SPOKE TO THE LIFE IN THE MUSSEQUES, WHERE URAN AND RURAL MET MIXED AND TRANSFORMED EACH OTHER. SONG LYRICS EXPRESSED THE VOCATIONS OF DAILY LIFE: THE LOSS OF LOVED ONES, THE HEARTBREAK AND GREAT ROMANCE, WORK TROUBLES; AND THEY TRANSLATED THESE INTO THE LANGUAGE OF RURAL AREAS. SONGS WERE PREDOMINANTLY COMPOSED IN KIMBUNDU, IN CONTRACT TO THE PORTUGESE-DOMINATED BUSINESS WORLD OF THE CITY.

 

KUTANOCAS AND MUSIC BROUGHT PEOPLE TOGETHER IN NEW WYAS AND THESE NEW FORMS OF MUSIC-SEMBAS AND RUMBAS- WERE THE NEW LANGUAGES THAT LINKED THE CITY AND RURAL AREAS AND FORGED A NEW ANGOLAN IDENTITY (ANGOLIDAD) THAT DREW FROM A TRANSNATIONAL MUSIC STYLE THAT PROMOTED AWARENESS AND UNITY.

 RADIO AND THE NASCENT RECORDING INDUSTRY WOULD HELP SPREAD THIS MUSIC THROUGHOUT THE COLONIAL TERRITORY TO THAT IT WAS NOT JUST A PHENOMENON LOCATED IN THE CAPITAL. KUTANOCAS BECAME SUCH A MEANINFUL CULTURAL CEREMONY THAT THE CITY’S CENTER FOR INFORMATION AND TOURISM EVENTUALLY DECIDED TO BUY THE PUBLICITY RIGHTS TO IT AND INCORPORATE IT INTO THEIR PROGRAMME.

 TO SHOWCASE THE BEST OF WHAT KUTANOCA HAD TO OFFER. MONTES STARTED ORGANIZING A WEEKLY SHOW CALLED ‘DIA DO TRABALHADOR’ (WORKER’S DAY). IT WAS A SPECIAL EVENT DEDICATED TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE MUSSEQUES, EVERY TUESDAY NIGHT AT CINE NGOLA, A MOVIE THEATRE LOCATED BETWEEN MARCAL AND RANGEL MUSSEQUES. THE PROGRAM FOR THE EVENING WOULD GENERALLY START BY SHOWING THE NEWEST COWBOY MOVIE BEFORE THE MUSICAL PART—AN OVERWHELMING SUCCESS. THE POPULAR ART MAGAZINE ‘NOTE E DIA’ WOULD PUBLISH A REVIEW OF DIA DO TRABALHADOR EVERY WEEK AND SOMETIMES INTEVIEWS WITH THE BANDS AND ARTISTS INCLUDED.

THE SHOW CULMINATED IN A MONTHLY ‘BEST OF’ CALLED ‘AGUARELA ANGOLANA’ (ANGOLAN WATERCOLOR) THAT BROUGHT TOGETHER THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRECEDING MONTH IN ONE SHOW.

 IMG_2857

WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE OIT, MONTES BEGAN EXPORTING HIS PROJECT, NOT ONLY TO OTHER CITIES IN ANGOLA, BUT ALSO TO PORTUGAL TO PERFORM AT FEIRA DO ALENTEJO. FOR THESE KINDS OF EXPEDITIONS MONTES WOULD SELECT A DIVERSE RANGE OF ACTS TO REPRESENT THE COLORFUL SPECTRUM OF ANGOLAN CULTURE—TRADITIONAL REBITA DANCERS, MARIMBA PLAYERS, POPULAR SINGERS AND MODERN BANDS.

ANGOLA GAINED INDEPENDENCE IN THE MIDST OF ITS MOST CREATIVE PERIOD, ONLY TO BE SHATTERED BY THE ERUPTION OF CIVIL WAR. THE MAIN RECORD COMPANIES WERE DESTROYED OR CLOSED DOWN; LUIS MONTES FLED THE COUNTRY AND WOULD NEVER COME BACK. MONTES’ DEPARTURE WOULD CREATE A VOID THAT WAS NEVER TO BE FILLED. IT IS SAID THAT HE HAD OFFERED HIS SERVICES TO THE MINISTRY OF CULTRE AT SOME POINT BUT HIS OFFER WAS REJECTED.

MONTES DIED MANY YEARS LATER IN EXILE, WHILE PREPARING HIS SUITCASE TO TRAVEL BACK TO HIS BELOVED ANGOLA. (from the liner notes)

front back

Track listing:

01 Avante Juventude

02 Senhor Doutor

03 N’Hoca

04 Kia Lomingo

05 Bina

06 Mabelé

07 Agarrem

08 Saudades de Luanda

09 Bongololo

10 N’Ga Kunu M’Butu

11 Lemba

12 Snipes

13 Bazooka

14 Divua Diami

15 Meca

16 Chamavo

17 Olha O Pica

18 Fatimita

19 Inspiraçáo De Nito

20 Despedida

21 Fuguei Na Escola (Para Jogar A Bola) (bonus track)

(no link at request of content provider)

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