Any African music lover has ever heard from Africa Negra or at least one of their songs. This band from São Tome e Príncipe has been somehow representing this small archipelago for more than 40 years.
We had the opportunity to attend the recent concert of the group in Berlin. Even though we guessed that Africa Negra’s members were all over 60 they put the audience on fire.
First, let us tell you more about this band.
Africa Negra and the band’s era in Africa.
The 60s and 70s was the band’s era on the African continent. Each country could have 2, 3 or even more famous music bands, which toured in Africa and in Europe. They embodied their country’s cultures and the hopes of the new African nations. At this time, the independence and decolonisation waves were reaching the continent.
Indeed we all remember the famous “Indépendance Cha Cha” by Le Grand Kallé and l’African Jazz.
Africa Negra belongs somehow to this movement. At the beginning of the 70s, Emilio Pontes and Horacio launched the band. A few years later, Joao Seria the charismatic singer, Imidio Vaz and Leonildo Barros, the two guitar players, have joined the band.
How could we describe Africa Negra’s music?
Even though São Tome e Prīncipe is a small archipelago and a Lusophone country it has a particular and specific culture. It is not a copy and paste of what you can find in other Lusophone countries.
You can find this specificity in the music of Africa Negra. On one hand, you will recognise the influence of music from central Africa, on the other hand, it will sound totally new. When you’re familiar with different types of African and Caribbean music, you can identify rhythms from Soukouss, Makossa, Highlife, Afrobeat, Semba, Soca, Kompa and so on. It is a very diverse musical style.
It has been illustrated by the dancers during the concert. Some people were dancing Semba or kizomba others were dancing Soukouss. We could also see some West African steps.
This musical melting-pot reflects the genesis of São Tome e Prīncipe; a nation with people coming from different areas. I guess it is the reason why Africa Negra is so well established as São Tome e Prīncipe’s ambassador.
Listen to Africa Negra’s music
Nowadays it’s not difficult to listen to some music from all over the world. However, we would like to give you some tips to kickstart with Africa Negra.
Alice – people were begging for this song at the concert. Let us tell you more about this title.
Just before performing on stage in São Tome, someone asked Leonildo Barros to help him reconquer his girlfriend. They had a serious dispute on their way to a fundoes (ball) and they broke up. So he wanted Africa Negra to sing a love song. It is how “Alice” (the girlfriend’s name) is born!
Bô Legá Caçô Modêbô – it is certainly their most famous title.
It means “You let the dog bite you”. This song, in Forro (Creole spoken in São Tome e Príncipe), is actually criticising the lack of democracy in their country. Africa Negra has even been censured because of it.
Whether you understand Forro, Portuguese or not you will enjoy attending one of their concerts. Don’t forget to have a look at our homepage to watch one of their lives.