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Bonga Kuenda

Bongo Kuenda was born Barcela de Carvalho and he comes from Angola. He grew up in the shanty towns outside Luanda and, as well as absorbing the sounds of modern Angolan music, he became involved in the fight for independence from the Portuguese. He had to flee to exile, first to Holland and then France. At one time he was a professional footballer for the club Benfica as well as a 400-metre champion runner and in this capacity was able to travel to different countries. 
While living in Paris in the 1970s Bonga recorded many excellent albums and his songs feature on numerous compilations including the track 'Diarabi' on Manu Dibango's Wakafrika. He was the first to sing 'Sodade', now made famous by Cesaria Evora.
Bonga sings in calao, a language that mixes Portuguese and Kimbundu. As well as singing in his very distinctive rather rough voice he plays the dizanka, an Angolan bamboo strummer and occasionally the puita, a fairly rarely heard friction drum. His songs have Brazilian influences as well as indigenous Angolan Semba sounds and he has worked with musicians from several different countries. He stayed on in Paris and Lisbon after Angola's independence and was critical of the post-colonial

set-up in his home country. Recordings Bonga has made include Roca de Jindugo, Paz em Angola, Swinga, Swinga:The Voice of Angola 102% Live, Mulemba Xangola and O Melhor. In 2003 Bonga recorded a great new album, Kaxexe. It contains both pleading heartfelt melodies and typical Angolan beats.
You can be sure Bonga is living up to the meaning of his stage name: "he who searches" or "he who goes ahead". His commitment to beautiful music and an end to strife in Angola are absolute. The photo on this page was taken while Bonga and his band were at Momo's in London in 2002. If you get a chance to see him playing live don't miss it!