Angolan revolutionary and musical superstar Bonga has a revered
place in the realm of Portuguese-language world music. He's been
making it for almost 30 years now and Mulemba Xangola shows him to be a
musician of maturity, wit and dignity. There are strong Cuban
flavors throughout the album, as well as hints of Flamenco and
Brazilian music. Bonga's aged, raspy baritone is a highly expressive
and nuanced instrument, and he uses it with poignant effect. Though I
don't understand any of his lyrics, Bonga's rich voice conveys
emotion that transcends language.
The opening, "Kimone Amarelo", begins with a flare of Spanish
guitar and settles into a slightly mournful, laid-back mode.
Seductive flute lines and lush harmonies help to push forward a
generally Latin agenda, but Bonga's distinctive vocals
ground it firmly on African soil. The title track takes a more
festive attitude, with a quicker tempo and guitar work reminiscent
of The Gipsy Kings. The female vocalist (either Lito Graca or Lura)
makes a strong contribution to the track; her vocal tone has a hint of
Bossa Nova, which makes the perfect finishing touch to an already
flavorful concoction. "Escapada" is the best song on the album. An
accordion adds Gallic flair while Bonga's voice takes on a husky,
smoky quality that is perfect for this sort of balladeering. I can
imagine this tune making a great contribution to whatever night of
romantic passion you might be planning in the near future.
In general, I'm fond of the exuberance of African pop music. With
Bonga I get something a bit more sophisticated, but still at its roots
conveying a spirit of joy and freedom.