Various Artists 

Soul of Angola: 1965-1975 (Lusafrica)

Until recently, music from Angola was hard to find. The ongoing civil war (1961 to the present) destroyed every recording studio and much of the country's infrastructure. Many artists fled the country, while those who stayed were often banned, killed, and/or censored by whatever faction happened to be in power. The music on these two CDs (the liner notes don't tell us where it came from or how it survived) is some of the earliest Angolan pop extant. These bands and artists emerged in the early '60s, inspired, like many young musicians, by the Beatles and the British Invasion. They got static from the older traditional acoustic bands for their use of electric guitars, as well from the colonial government, because they were singing in tribal languages rather than Portuguese, which was considered treasonable. But by 1968 the government had given up and created a radio program called "Voz de Angola" to play the music of local bands and artists. If the music here sounds familiar, it's because the semba, one of Angola's most popular rhythms, gave birth to the samba when it traveled to Brazil. The music of the Congo, Cuba, black America (particularly James Brown), and the Beatles was also wildly popular with Angolan youth, and you can hear echoes of those influences as well. Highlights from the set's forty tracks include the semba-rumba of Os Kiezos, led by guitar great Mario "Marito" Arcanjo, who adds British Invasion flash to his Congolese-influenced lead lines, while the rest of the group lays down an irresistible rhythm. Paulino Pinheiro's reverb-drenched vocals and the clanging guitars of his combo on "Pachanga de Juventade" sound like an African take on Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba." Os Bongos' "Lena" combines surf guitar licks with Cuban-style harmony vocals, while accordion master Minguito, one of the few acoustic artists to make the cut, tears into "N'Gandala Ku Uganhala O Fuma," a merengue-influenced cut that boasts a smoking percussion section.

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