Grown from the volatile political climate of the coastal Republic of Angola in the mid to late '70s, some of Africa's most uplifting music is documented on the Buda Musique release Angola 70's: 1974-1978. During the early 1970s, unrest in African colonies -- including fierce nationalist struggles in Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau -- were draining Portugal's resources (by 1974 the Portuguese had lost 11,000 military personnel in Africa). On April 25, 1974, a group of disillusioned military officers, led by the former governor and commander in Guinea-Bissau, General António de Spínola, overthrew the Lisbon government. Lisbon was anxious to relinquish power to a unified government and took an active role in bringing about a reconciliation of the three liberation movements. Angolan guerillas who had been fighting the Portuguese soldiers stationed in the colony since 1961 believed that their struggle for freedom and independence was at a close. Unfortunately, the leaders of the three competing Angolan liberation movements would enter into a bloody conflict for power that would last for several years.
Ironically, the horrors and atrocities of this civil war were the creative drive behind some of the most beautifully powerful music ever produced from that region. The hybrid of traditional African rhythms mixed with South African mbaqanga and a pervasive Portuguese folk influence creates a uniquely energetic sound. Decidedly more Western oriented than most traditional African music, the songs are primarily vocal driven, with strong, reverb-heavy guitar melodies and highlighted by bright horn sections, almost as if the heavy funk of Fela Kuti's Africa 70 was stripped away and replaced with pleadingly melodic electric guitar lines. The airy fretwork and reggae-styled basslines of "Kalumba" by Sofia Rosa are in direct contrast with the studio heavy worldbeat of "Nkuwu" by the superb brass-powered funk group Matadidi, and yet both are tied to each other by the same longing themes of freedom and hope. Fans of Johnny Clegg and the non-Ladysmith Black Mambazo tracks on Paul Simon's Graceland will be fascinated to hear the roots of those sounds which sound very much alive decades later. [Buda Musique has also released the companion recordings Angola 60's: 1956-1970, Angola 70's: 1972-1973, Angola 80's: 1978-1990, and Angola 90's: 1993-1998]