Music of Angola

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The music of Angola has been shaped both by wider musical trends and by the political history of the country. [1] while Angolan music has also influenced the music of the other Lusophone countries. In turn, the music of Angola was instrumental in creating and reinforcing angolanidade, the Angolan national identity. [2] The capital and largest city of Angola — Luanda — is home to a diverse group of styles including merengue, kilapanda, zouk, semba, kizomba and kuduro. Just off the coast of Luanda is Ilha do Cabo, home to an accordion and harmonica-based style of music called rebita.

History of Angola aspect of history

Angola is a country in southwestern Africa. The country's name derives from the Kimbundu word for king. It was first settled by San hunter-gatherer societies before the northern domains came under the rule of Bantu states such as Kongo and Ndongo. From the 15th century, Portuguese colonists began trading, and a settlement was established at Luanda during the 16th century. Portugal annexed territories in the region which were ruled as a colony from 1655, and Angola was incorporated as an overseas province of Portugal in 1951. After the Angolan War of Independence, which ended with an army mutiny and leftist coup in Lisbon, Angola's independence was achieved on November 11, 1975 through the Alvor Agreement. After independence, Angola later entered a period of civil war that lasted up until 2002.

Lusophone music, interchangeably music from Portugal and Portuguese-speaking countries, is music that comes either from Portuguese-speaking countries, or from anywhere as long it is being performed in Portuguese or Portuguese-based creole languages. Generally this term is not used outside of the internet, because of some cultural differences between the peoples of the different Portuguese-speaking countries, but identity questions make a part of the shared relationship between the groups of Portuguese-speakers around the world and thus people from these different nations can have a taste for the culture of each other, as seen in the success of Brazilian media in Portugal.

Angolanidade is the national identity of Angola. It can also be described as Angolan cultural patriotism. Much of what is today considered angolanidade was created by Angolan intellectuals as a conscious effort to highlight an idealized vision for what it means to be Angolan.


In the 20th century, Angola was wracked by violence and political instability. Angolan musicians were oppressed by government forces, both during the period of Portuguese colonization and after independence.

The colonial history of Angola is usually considered to run from the appearance of the Portuguese under Diogo Cão in 1482 (Congo) or 1484 until the independence of Angola in November 1975. Settlement did not begin until Novais's establishment of São Paulo de Loanda (Luanda) in 1575, however, and the Portuguese government only formally incorporated Angola as a colony in 1655 or on May 12, 1886.

Folk music


A traditional Angolan trumpet and panflute. Angola Trompete und Panflote Linden-Museum 38362 38365.jpg
A traditional Angolan trumpet and panflute.

Belonging to the same family as Brazilian Samba but distinct from that genre, [3] Semba is the predecessor to a variety of music styles originating in Africa. Three of the most famous of these are Samba itself (which was created by Angolan slaves), kizomba, and kuduro.

Samba is a Brazilian music genre and dance style, with its roots in Africa via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions, particularly of Angola and the Congo, through the samba de roda genre of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, from which it derived. Although there were various forms of samba in Brazil with popular rhythms originated from drumming, samba as a music genre has its origins in Rio de Janeiro, the former capital of Brazil.

Africa The second largest and second most-populous continent, mostly in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres

Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Slavery in Brazil

Slavery in Brazil began long before the first Portuguese settlement was established in 1516, as members of one tribe would enslave captured members of another. Later, colonists were heavily dependent on indigenous labor during the initial phases of settlement to maintain the subsistence economy, and natives were often captured by expeditions called bandeiras. The importation of African slaves began midway through the 16th century, but the enslavement of indigenous peoples continued well into the 17th and 18th centuries.

The subject matter of Semba is often a cautionary tale or story regarding day-to-day life and social events and activities, usually sung in a witty rhetoric. Through Semba music, the artist is able to convey a broad spectrum of emotions. It is this characteristic that has made Semba the premiere style of music for a wide variety of Angolan social gatherings. Its versatility is evident in its inevitable presence at funerals and, on the other hand, many Angolan parties.

Cautionary tale

A cautionary tale is a tale told in folklore, to warn its listener of a danger. There are three essential parts to a cautionary tale, though they can be introduced in a large variety of ways. First, a taboo or prohibition is stated: some act, location, or thing is said to be dangerous. Then, the narrative itself is told: someone disregarded the warning and performed the forbidden act. Finally, the violator comes to an unpleasant fate, which is frequently related in expansive and grisly detail.

Funeral ceremony for a person who has died

A funeral is a ceremony connected with the burial, cremation, or interment of a corpse, or the burial with the attendant observances. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember and respect the dead, from interment, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor. Customs vary between cultures and religious groups. Common secular motivations for funerals include mourning the deceased, celebrating their life, and offering support and sympathy to the bereaved; additionally, funerals may have religious aspects that are intended to help the soul of the deceased reach the afterlife, resurrection or reincarnation.

Semba is very much alive and popular in Angola today as it was long before that country's independence from the Portuguese colonial system on November 11, 1975. Various new Semba artists emerge each year in Angola, as they render homage to the veteran semba masters, many of whom are still performing. Other styles related to the Semba is Rebita, which is inspired by European line dances, as well as kazukuta and kabetula which are primarily Carnaval Music.

Rebita is a traditional music and dance that originated in Angola while it was a Portuguese colony. It is a genre of music and dance. Couples move coordinated by the head of the wheel, performing gestures and the compass step Massemba.

Carnival festive season which occurs immediately before Lent

Carnival is a Western Christian and Greek Orthodox festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent. The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide. Carnival typically involves public celebrations, including events such as parades, public street parties and other entertainments, combining some elements of a circus. Elaborate costumes and masks allow people to set aside their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity. Participants often indulge in excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and other foods that will be forgone during upcoming Lent. Traditionally, butter, milk, and other animal products were not consumed "excessively", rather, their stock was fully consumed as to reduce waste. Pancakes, donuts, and other desserts were prepared and eaten for a final time. During Lent, animal products are no longer eaten, and individuals have the ability to give up a certain object or activity of desire.

Barceló de Carvalho, the Angolan singer popularly known as Bonga, is arguably the most successful Angolan artist to popularize semba music internationally; it is generally being categorized as World music.

José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho, better known as Bonga, is a folk and semba singer and songwriter from Angola.

World music is a musical category encompassing many different styles of music from around the globe, which includes many genres including some forms of Western music represented by folk music, Jazz, as well as selected forms of ethnic music, indigenous music, neotraditional music, and music where more than one cultural tradition, such as ethnic music and Western popular music, intermingle.

Colonial times

Compared to many of its neighbors in Southern Africa, as well as other Portuguese colonies (especially Cape Verde), Angola's popular music has had little international success.

In the 1800s Angolan musicians in the cities experimented with popular styles worldwide, including waltzes and ballads. With the first half of the twentieth century came big bands, who sang in both Portuguese and Kimbundu [3]

The first group to become known outside of Angola was Duo Ouro Negro, created in 1956. After a successful sting in Portugal, the duo toured Switzerland, France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Spain. After them came Orquestra os Jovens do Prenda who were most popular from the late 1960s to the early 1970s and have continued to perform and record sporadically. The big band included two trumpets, a saxophone, four guitars and a half-dozen percussion instruments. They played kizomba (a native style based around the marimba xylophone), using the four guitars to approximate the sound of the marimba, and quilapanga.

The acoustic guitarist Carlos Vieira Dias is, however, the father of Angolan popular music. He introduced the ensembles of dikanza (scraper), ngomas (conga drums) and violas, which became popular in the 1950s in urban areas, where audiences liked the politicized messages and early nationalist thought. Dias was imprisoned by the Portuguese for many years.

In the years just before the civil war, the Luanda rock music scene sizzled. One member of a top band said that being in a band then was like being in a top football team; when his band walked into a club, all his supporters would cheer (and rival bands' groupies would hiss). [4]

Two other prominent musicians of the pre-independence era included David Zé and Urbano de Castro, both of whom were assassinated as a result of their political activism. [5]

Beginning in the 1970s, Bonga became the most well-known Angolan pop musician outside the country. He began performing in the early 1960s when Angolan folk music was finding some popularity. As a member of Kissueia, he addressed social problems while also becoming a soccer star. He was moved to Lisbon by the colonial government, and he there played soccer until 1972, when he left to protest Portugal's colonial war in Angola. He settled in Rotterdam, where he became closely associated with the Cape Verdean community. Bonga's "Mona Ki Ngi Xica" (1972) earned him an arrest warrant, and he began travelling between Germany, France and Belgium until Angola gained independence in 1975.


After independence came civil war. Many popular musicians were killed, and some who were spared simply left the country. [3]

In the early 1980s, Angolan popular music was deeply influenced by Cuban music, especially in the work of André Mingas and brother Rui Mingas. Cuban Rumba was popular and influential across southern Africa, including Angola's neighbor Zaire (renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo), where it became the basis for soukous. In addition to the spread of recorded Cuban music, the presence of Cuban troops allied with the Marxist MPLA movement helped to popularize Cuban rhythms.

Two of the most well-known songs from Angola are Humbi Hummbi - written by Filipe Mukenga and Mushima (origin unknown). Music is of great importance in the Angolan lifestyle and it is not unusual to encounter a cappella renditions of the most popular Angolan and Brazilian songs. Lyrics of these songs are sung in Portuguese, which is spoken by most Angolans as first or second language, alongside Bantu languages.

Some other popular Angolan musicians include Teta Lando, Carlos Lamartine, Kituxi, Waldemar Bastos, Afra Sound Star and Sam Mangwana, who was of dual Congolese-Angolan heritage.


For some time, a new, more electronic music movement, called kuduro, has blossomed in Angola. It combines traditional Angolan Kilapanga, Semba and Soca with Western house and techno. The main proponent of Kuduro is the international group Buraka Som Sistema although there are a number of artistes working on the national scene and a growing number of bedroom producers.


The most popular genre today is kizomba. Kizomba is a partnered social dance, that is quickly gaining worldwide attention, especially in Europe and North America. Discussions about kizomba employ words such as ‘connected,’ ‘sensual’ and ‘intimate,’ creating dance experiences and a wider scene laden with affect and underlying eroticism. The kizomba rhythm and movement is derived from an up-beat semba, meaning “a touch of the bellies,” which is a characteristic posture of the dance. Kizomba supports a fairly large number of artists singing in both English and Portuguese. The biggest producer in the Kizomba field is Nelo Paim who works in conjunction with Afonso Quintas and LS Productions. Eduardo Paim, Nelos's older brother, has released 10 albums and appeared in concerts worldwide.

See also

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  1. Posthumus, Bram (2006). "Angola". In Simon Broughton; Mark Ellingham; Jon Lusk; Duncan Clark. The Rough Guide to World Music. 1 (3rd edition. ed.). London: Rough Guides Ltd. pp. 27–34.
  2. Moorman, Marissa (2008). Intonations: A Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, from 1945 to Recent Times. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Pres. p. 2. ISBN   978-0-8214-1823-9.
  3. 1 2 3 Posthumus, pp. 28.
  4. Moorman, Marissa Jean (2008). Intonations: a social history of music and nation in Luanda, Angola, from 1945 to recent times. New African Histories. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. p. 94. ISBN   978-0-8214-1824-6 . Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  5. "Urbano De Castro". Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe. 2008-08-24. Retrieved 2016-07-11.