Bonga Kwenda

Check out Bonga’s latest release Mulemba Xangola…

Bonga Kwenda

A national icon, an international star, and a performer whose energy, warmth and respect for both audience and fellow musicians is entirely compelling. Watching Bonga perform creates a real sense of affinity to the man, his music and the nation he sings about with such raw pain and immense joy.

Born Barceló de Carvalho in 1942, Bonga has phased through many areas of stardom and struggle to become one of Africa’s powerful voices of consciousness. Music, sport and politics were always inextricably linked for the young Bonga. It was in the ’60s that Bonga’s musical career began with the group Kissueia, winning popularity amongst the student community for challenging lyrics addressing the country’s critical social issues. As a young star athlete, he set a ten year long world-class 400 meter record and later became a major football icon as part of the great Benfica (Lisbon) football team of the 1960s. His sporting stardom afforded him movement between Europe and Angola that were not afforded regular citizens at the time, and he used to carry messages between exiled freedom fighters and compatriots still in Angola. It also provided him the opportunity to use his music as a further means of opposing the colonial powers, an activity that eventually forced him into exile as the independence movement intensified and he came to prominence as the face behind key pro-independence songs.

Since the ’70s, Bonga has been the Angolan ambassador to the world of Afropop. In 1972, he left Lisbon to protest the colonial war in Angola, settling in Rotterdam where he recorded his first album, Angola 72. His subversive lyrics earned him an arrest warrant and a nomadic lifestyle that bounced him between Belgium, Germany and France until independence was declared in 1975.

Bonga’s voice has been a true voice of revolution – a voice against the tyranny of both the Portuguese colonisers, and, post-independence, the warring MPLA and UNITA parties that continue to fight for control of the country.

Even though he remains based between Paris and Lisbon, infrequently returning home for peace concerts, his voice is one of the most popular and acclaimed in Angola. Alongside Paulo Flores and others, Bonga is an icon for peace and for music excellence, constantly reinventing and refreshing himself. His samba, semba and kizomba inspired music has unusually broad appeal, listened to by all age groups and danced to at parties at home and in all the clubs.
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