Bonga

Lusafrica

Nearly 30 years ago, Angolan Barcelo de Carvalho changed his name to Bonga Keunza after the Portuguese colonial authorities then ruling his country issued an arrest warrant for him. A soccer and track star, he stirred the ire of the government by becoming involved in the Angolan independence movement. Bonga eventually went into exile and supported the liberation cause by turning to music, singing semba—a quiet, gorgeous African style that is the root of Brazil’s samba—and issuing the outspoken albums Angola 72 and Angola 74. When Angola became independent, in 1975, Bonga stayed in Europe to pursue his music career. Currently living in Portugal and still a supporter of various human-rights causes, he has spent the last several years recording a series of dance-oriented CDs that haven’t been released in the United States. But his latest domestic disc, Mulemba Xangola, stays far away from preprogrammed club fodder. Instead, the album offers a collection of traditional sembas, bouncy Afropop, and melancholy semba-fado hybrids that should appeal to world-music fans, coffeehouse folkies, and jet-setting lounge-core types alike. Although Bonga delivers his raspy vocal melodies exclusively in Portuguese, his dynamic call-and-response exchanges with his female backing vocalists on “Ngui Tename,” the soothing rumba of the title track, and the exciting flamencolike guitar and cavaquinho playing on a number of cuts all help Mulemba Xangola overcome the language barrier. —Steve Kiviat