In a sense, Angola has never recovered from the extensive and brutal slave trade that unfolded after Diogo Cão-the first European explorer to visit the area-entered the mouth of the Congo River in 1483. Violent Portuguese slavers undermined the Kongo kingdoms that had ruled there, and near the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese overtook local authorities by force and established an abusive military government dedicated to facilitating the capture and export of slaves. Some 4 million people would be removed from this region and shipped to Brazil and the Caribbean before Portugal finally outlawed slavery in 1836.
Moving into the colonial mode of the day-forced labor-the Portuguese then pressed further inland. Their efforts to subdue and subjugate peoples in the interior led to a century of fighting, as Angolans continued to resist. After 1930, the New State allowed Angolans to "assimilate" into the conquering Portuguese cultural milieu. A period of relative prosperity and industrial progress followed, but growing nationalist sentiments led to the formation of many political parties, which ultimately came together as the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the Bakongo-dominated National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA). These forces argued policy and philosophy and failed to unite against the Portuguese government throughout the 1960s. Later on, international powers such as the U.S. and China backed a third force, UNITA, led by Jonas Savimbi.
When Portugal gave up Angola in 1975, nominal power passed to the MPLA, but with backing from the U.S. and South Africa, Savimbi's UNITA force incorporated the FNLA and fought on, dooming Angola to still more years of civil war. Peace accords in 1992 and 1994 failed to produce lasting peace.
Angola's recording industry turned out singles during the 1960s and early 70s. During the early heyday of Congolese music, Angola produced excellent electric guitar pop by groups like Os Kiezos, Oscar Neves, Os Bongos, and the great Jovens Do Prendo. The music owed something to the emerging rumba sound in neighboring Congo. But Angola's indigenous rhythms, such as the semba-ancestor of the Brazilian samba-and rebita were also widely used, and rhythms from Brazil and the Caribbean, particularly merengue, also turn up in the rich recordings from this era. Soul of Angola, an excellent compilation of singles recorded between 1965 and 1975, is one of the only places where this nearly-lost era of Angolan music can still be heard.
The civil war that followed independence in 1975 proved especially brutal for the music scene, but even then, live bands continued to play in public halls. True survivors, Orquestra Os Jovens Do Prenda, started out as a rural marimba, percussion and vocal group in 1965. Adding three electric guitars, bass, horns and trap drums to their five-piece percussion section, the band made the transition to the capital, Luanda, during the 1970s. The early years of the civil war forced them to split up, but they reformed in 1981. Os Jovens Do Prenda blend the indigenous semba rhythm with Zairean rumba and a style they call quilapanga—Angolan merengue. Berlin Festa! a rare live recording the band made in 1990, offers one of the only contemporary examples of homegrown Angolan pop. Other top names in Angolan music include Bonga, Eduardo Paim, The Kafala Brothers, Paulo Flores, Waldamar Bastos, and Ruka Vandunen.
In recent years, a new, urban dance sound called kuduro has emerged from Angola to capture the world's attention. Based on a foundation of breakneck percussion, rhythmic, raggamuffin-style chanting and a particularly suggestive dance, kuduro emerged in Luanda in the late '80s and '90s and has become quite popular in Portugal, with Lisbon group Buraka Som Sistema emerging as one of the genre's best-known international acts.-Courtesy Afropop Worldwide