1943 – ANGOLA


Jose Adelino Barcelo de Carvalho aka Bonga Kwenda was Portuguese champion on 400 metres for Benfica at the time Angola was still a part of the Portuguese colonial empire, a situation that lasted until 1975.

Bonga Kwenda was born in 1943 in Kipri to the North of Luanda in Angola of a Congolese mother and an Angolan father. In the sixties, when Independence time was coming near, Bonga like some other young people of his generation, began to compose and sing in the capital city, Luanda, where he was studying. But the Portuguese colonial authorities didn’t appreciate the young singers who expressed a culture typically Angolan, and Bonga went into exile in Rotterdam, Holland. The Capeverdean community of the city was already significant: men worked on the docks or for the Heineken brewery, women did domestic works. This community had its restaurants, bars, its Saturday night or Sunday afternoon dances. They were places where you put the world to rights, dreaming of independence, of the return home, and where you remembered with nostalgia and heartbreak your relatives who ‘ve stayed home.

Naturally, Bonga hung out with the Rotterdam Capeverdean musicians and he recorded with them on the Morabeza label his first record Angola 72, which is still considered as one of the most interesting albums of modern African music. It was a mix of original and traditional compositions, in which Bonga sang of the tough life reality of the Angolans under the colonial domination, the poorness, the shantytowns… Then, after another recording in 74, it was finally time for Independence, the return home and the beginning of one the most prolific career for an African artist.

Recording album after album, Bonga became a star, all over Africa and in Portugal, giving the audience a dancing and lively music. However, despite his magical voice, Bonga didn’t really charm the buffs of the world-music scene. The album “Mulemba Xangola” which is reviving the magic of the Angola 72 album and the dancing atmosphere of his Portuguese career seemed to change that. 2000 was the year of a new beginning for Bonga.

Kuenda Bonga has issued a row of albums, presented here are just a few of his most important.