Bonga Live
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cd cover Bonga
Lusafrica (

Bonga, who was a sports celebrity before becoming an anti-colonial information smuggler and eventually a singer, remains the voice of Angola. His melancholy sandpaper tones, set to Lusophone rhythms and melodies peppy or slow, tell of struggle and adversity as eloquently as they sing out in celebration. More than 30 years down the line, his albums Angola 72 and Angola 74 are still musical landmarks built around the mood of a country and a continent emerging cautiously from European domination. Bonga's in his '60s now, and there's every indication that he plans to keep on doing his thing as long as humanly possible. This disc, culled from a 2004 concert in Paris, shows him in his element as he runs through songs from across his lengthy career backed by a snug lineup of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. Here are the sadness-tinged sort of tunes that lament the state of things ("Mona Ki Ngi Xica," "Kabomborinho") as well as the lively kickers that break the spell ("Galinha Kassafa," "Recordando Pio") and tunes like "Praca" that weigh in somewhere in between. Familiar flavoring is supplied by liberal doses of accordion and Bonga's own percussion, including the punctuating dikanza scraper. Halfway through the proceedings the anthemic "Mulemba Xangola" is blessed with the added vocals of young Cape Verdean chanteuse Lura, perfectly complimenting Bonga's wise-elder voice with her spunk from elsewhere in the Afro-Portuguese world. This is a strong showing from one of African music's longtime greats, bogged down slightly by the affable Bonga's tendency to talk to the audience a bit too much. But hey, it's his gig. And when the music's flowing, it's unbeatable. - Tom Orr

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