Sam Mangwana was 52 when Putumayo World Music released Galo Negro in 1998. The Congo native commanded great respect in African pop circles, and for those who are seriously into Afro-pop, the release of a new Mangwana CD was a major event (much as the release of a new Bob Dylan or Neil Young album would be in the rock world). One thing time hadn't done to the expressive singer was make him predictable; Mangwana had so many different influences that being redundant was something he easily avoided. On Galo Negro, influences from various parts of Africa (including the Congo, Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde) are combined with a variety of Latin and Caribbean influences. One hears elements of everything from Afro-Cuban salsa and Dominican merengue to Spanish flamenco and Colombian vallenato on this album. Selections like "Ghetto," "Zengolo" and the title song have strong sociopolitical leanings, although many listeners won't understand the lyrics because Mangwana sings in Portuguese as well as the African languages Swahili, Kikongo and Lingala. But one needn't know what Mangwana is singing about to realize how much feeling and heartfelt emotion he's bringing to this fine CD.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson