African Music Encyclopedia

Bonga Kuenda


Bonga Kuenda, a.k.a. Barcelo de Carvalho, was born in 1942 in Portuguese-ruled Angola. He started out as a professional soccer player but soon transitioned into singing pro-independence songs which eventually forced him into exile. Bonga split his time between Paris (where there was a very active African music community) and Lisbon (where he could easily communicate since he spoke Portuguese). It was in Europe that he became exposed to musicians from other Portuguese-speaking countries, like Brazil, and picked up the sound of the samba.

After independence, in 1979, the newly formed government began a government-supported orchestra called Semba Tropical, a showcase band for Angola's top solo acts, with the purpose of reviving the music industry. As a ministry spokesman said during the band's tour of Europe during the mid-1980s:

"We had great problems because of the was for independence. When the Portuguese left they dismantled some of the basic structure by snmashing and sabotaging equipment and we had to start from scratch. After independence there were no bands at all. Those which were formed were not active because they had no instruments."

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