Angola’s backyard revolution

This month on AIAC Radio we talk with Marissa Moorman and Paulo Flores to see how a music culture born in the quintals of Luanda helped birth a nation. Listen on Worldwide FM.

Photo by Jorge Sá Pinheiro on Unsplash

Our theme of port cities continues on Africa Is a Country Radio, and this month we head to Luanda, capital city of Angola. One of the earliest permanent European settlements on the African continent, historical Luanda is most notable for being the exit point for an astonishingly large proportion of enslaved Africans heading to the Americas. This has meant that the influence of the nearby kingdoms of Kongo and Ngola, and smaller proximate communities, have contributed an outsized influence on cultures from Argentina to Alaska.

After the abolishment of slavery, Luanda became a “backwater” of the Portuguese empire, and a sort of absentee landlordism allowed some Angolans to enter into the colonial urban elite. However, in the wake of the Berlin Conference, with Angola having to shore up its colonial territory against the claims of other European powers, Luanda and the surrounding territory of Angola would become the site of mass white European migration. With the ascendance of the fascist Salazar dictatorship in 1932, driven by the state policy of the “national integration” of Portugal’s colonial territories, the migration only intensified. By the 1940s, this would result in Luanda having, alongside Cape Town, one of the largest populations of Europeans on the African continent.

It is this late colonial period that eventually saw the rise of a strong anti-colonial resistance movement. And while political dissent grew and solidified through local organizing, a unique cosmopolitan musical culture started to grow in the urban periphery of Luanda. After an anti-colonial war broke out in 1961, and the fight for independence moved beyond the borders of the colony, the local music scene became more subversive than explicitly political, and in doing so helped solidify a unique identity—Angolanidade—on which the nation of Angola was able to stake its claim for independence.

Africa Is a Country Editorial Board member Marissa Moorman literally wrote the book on this subject. So, we are excited to have her on the show to help us sort out what can seem like a very complex history of music intertwined with fashion, language, the anti-colonial struggle, the Cold War, oil, and the internet.

We will also be joined by legendary Angolan musician Paulo Flores. One of the original sonic innovators of the now globally popular dance Kizomba, Paulo grew up as a child of the Angolan diaspora, coming and going throughout his life, and has an interesting perspective on what nation means through the lens of culture. He is also, importantly, is an excavator of the 1960s and 70s “Golden Age” of Angolan music. We will preview and talk about his forthcoming album In-dependencia.

Tune in today, Friday, March 26th from 2pm to 4pm GMT (9am to 11am EST) on Worldwide FM to listen live. After that, visit the show page and follow us on Mixcloud.

AIAC RADIO-Luanda, Worldwide FM, Chief Boima hosts.

Further Reading