Sexta-feira, Novembro 23, 2007

Bonga - Mona Ngi Ki Xica

Rio Kwanza

I don't remember what I was doing when they played "Mona Ki Ngi Xica," or "The Child I Am Leaving Behind," but I remember I stopped and sat and listened. I put that song on the first mix tape I made in bulk, one of those crappy tape-to-tape-to-tape jobs I sent out to a handful of friends. At least one of those tapes is still kicking around; my college roommate stumbled across it when packing for a recent move. He'll tell you, it's a weird tape: Thinking Fellers and Funkadelic and Marian Anderson. And Bonga.

Bonga Kwenda recorded Angola 72 in Rotterdam; he'd been exiled for his affiliation with the anti-colonial insurgency, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. The album was banned in his homeland, offensive to Portuguese sensibilities on two counts: its lyrics described the desperate poverty of Angolans under colonial rule and its music contained coded shout-outs to Angolan national pride. Bonga's band back home was called Kisseuia, or "poor people's suffering." He wrote songs based on the traditional semba style, the ancestor or close cousin of Brazilian samba (depending on your read of the circular genealogy of Afro-Latin music). He included Angolan instruments like the dizanka, a bamboo-scraper-type beat-keeper that reminds me of the fish. Wait, is that what it's called, the fish? You can hear it in this song:

Mona ngi ki xica

I don't know the lyrics to "Mona Ki Ngi Xica" - it's sung in Kimbundu - but the emotion needs no translation: the plaintive guitars, the throaty hum, Bonga's husky cries, all speak anguished accusation. In 1974, a coup in Portugal brought down the colonial government; in 1975, a newly independent Angola imploded into a 27-year civil war that left the country in ruins. For many Africans, especially Bonga's fellow exiles in Europe, Angola 72 and the follow-up, Angola 74, became landmarks in time, music made in an explosive moment and instantly imbued with history (see Marvin Gaye, op cit).

I didn't have access to that history or those memories when I first heard the song, but it haunted me. Little by little, I learned new stories - about the song, about Bonga, about Angola.

Maybe eight years after that first hearing, another friend who got the tape I made picked up a copy of Angola 72 on a trip to San Francisco. Hearing Bonga then called up a lost moment in my own history: a rough, disheveled time when it was easy and necessary to imagine a radically different life-to-come. I grew to love another song on the album, "Muimbo Ua Sabalu," about which I can say nothing except, listen.

Hearing Bonga changed my life. It wasn't a conversion experience; I just learned something. And because I had some time on my hands, and because I bothered, the Bonga spread. I even got a little of the Bonga back. Nice, huh?

But thinking about Angola 72 makes me revise my lonely thesis. Maybe lonely isn't quite right. Loneliness is too diffuse. Maybe what I'm really talking about is longing - for home, for a time long past, for a better tomorrow - whatever endlessly deferred dream traps you, arms outstretched, in the infinite present. It's longing that opens the door. It's the door left open, waiting for someone to come home. Lower the arms, shut the door, miss the chance? No, I'm stuck with the longing, I guess. What are you gonna do?

in Megan Matthews
Mona ngi ki xica,Muimbu ua sabalu, Bonga, Angola 72
publicado em Moistworks em 22 de Julho de 2006

Som:Radio Muximangola

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