Saturday, August 29, 2020

Angola's Singer, Sprinter ... and Geographer

 

Bonga Kueda: His beard is no simple matter

Harry Graham's 2018 interview with Angolan musician Bonga Kueda is a half hour very well spent. It is an engaging conversation with an artist whose life traces the arc of modern Angolan history. He describes his journey from music to running and back to music, all while telling Angola's colonial and post-colonial story. The stories of independence in Angola, Cabo Verde, and other Lusophone nations are intertwined with the 1975 fall of Salazar in Portugal itself. 

These events are much more recent than many of our contemporaries seem to think; it is almost to soon to talk about post-colonialism.

The conversation is presented for an English-speaking audience, but Bantu, Portuguese, and French are heard in the background throughout. Despite the deep pain Portugal has caused for his country, the main interview takes place by phone from a barber shop in Lisbon.

I add the label "geographer" to his story even though it is not cited in the interview. Growing up in colonial schools, Bonga had to learn the rivers of Portugal, but his own country was not part of the curriculum. At a young age, he taught himself the geography of his own country and took "Bonga" as a way of rejecting the name given him at birth as the subject of an empire. It is therefore quite ironic that he conducts the interview quite in the seat of that empire.

Lagniappe

When looking for the music of Bonga online, I found a recording of Sodade that he made with Cabo Verde's national treasure Cesária Evora.


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