Various Artists, Angola Soundtrack (The Unique Sound of Luanda (1968-1976))

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 02.23.11 in Reviews

Luanda rocked. The rest of Angola might have been burning up with war in the '60s and '70s, but in the capital they cranked the amps and let fly with music, not bullets. Blues, Congolese rumba, Cuban rhythms, funk and psychedelia all got chucked into the blender and came out in wild colours. It was a mad, beautiful, fertile time, one that produced some of the most deliriously creative music ever to come out of Africa.

Some of the most deliriously creative music ever to come out of Africa

This compilation is a glorious patchwork, a mix'n'match of giant proportions that's crammed full of wonderful moments. On "Ilha Vergem," for instance, Jovens Do Prenda mash up a rumba rhythm with surf guitar for a startling Angola 5-0 that grabs the ear. The sheer joy of the musicians leaps out of the speakers. And David Zé, one of the country's biggest stars, turns "Uma Amiga" into 160 seconds of Afro-Caribbean mayhem that defies the feet to stay still. There's also plenty of real innovation among the experiments. Along with some gorgeously fluid fretwork, Os Bongos' "Kazucuta" delves into some heavy echo to offer a brittle Angolan take on dub, getting more out of control as the track progresses until it stops just short of chaos, while the slow burn of Africa Show's "Massanga Mama" takes electric blues home to Africa with the kind of delicate, soulful ache few bands could manage.

The standout of this superb bunch is "Macongo Me Chiquita" from Ferreira Do Nascimento, with proto rapping over menacing, minor-key chord changes. It's tense, bristling with anger and far, far ahead of its time, with the kind of lo-fi production that makes it sound almost contemporary. Luanda rocked; now the rest of the world has a chance to catch up and roll.