Popularity of kizomba? The world has enjoyed the Angolan sound for centuries
FEBRUARY 24, 2017

On the national day of culture, on January 8, the Minister Carolina Cerqueira announced a project “to update, this year, the registration of traditional musical instruments of each province of the country and the constitution of a musical band of this kind.” An interesting idea, in my humble opinion, that will require investment in research and training and I hope the initiative does not run into the financial constraints that have been affecting the implementation of many public programs.

For anyone aware, the global popularity of some modern urban music styles created in Angola as kizomba and kuduro is well visible. The Festivalsero website has cataloged about 50 international events, including festivals and congresses, dedicated entirely or in part to kizomba scheduled for 2017 in different countries from Israel to China, figures indicative of the popularity of the style of music and dance that inspired in semba and in Antillean music Eduardo Paim and his peers created in the 1980s in Luanda. However, kizomba and kuduro are not the first Angolan sounds that conquered the world. In the era of European colonial expansion the musical instruments and sounds taken by slaves from our present territory have left their mark on the New World.

Phillip Effiong, a Nigerian academic who has the same name as his father, the secessionist army general who signed the agreement that ended the civil war in Nigeria (aka the Biafra War), has long published work on the origin of the banjo, The string instrument popularized in the twentieth century by blues and jazz artists whose African origin is almost unanimous among historians and scholars of musical instruments. It is a fact that in different regions of Africa can be found string instruments similar to a rudimentary guitar but it would have been the Angolan slaves taken to the south of the United States that made known the “banjo father” to the Americans.

* The gourdbodied instruments that eventually emerged as the banjo in the US were thus fashioned by slaves mostly in the American South and Appalachia, and would go through the process of being variously defined as bangie, bango, banjar, banjar banza, banjer and banjar.

Another theory cites the Quimbundo (also spelled Kimbundu) word m’banza, which means city or town, the other possible source of the word banjo. Quimbundo is the language spoken by one of the largest ethnic groups in modern Angola. When Portuguese colonizers and North American slave owners began calling the banjo instrument, they may have been influenced by the word m’banza. They may also have been influenced by the word banzo, which Brazilian slaves generated as an expression of the grief they felt to be held in bondage. Interestingly, Brazilian slaves usually expressed banzo when they played the banjo. The word banzo may also come from the word m’banza.

In “African Origins of The Banjo” by Philip Effiong

Philip Effiong mentions that mbanza means a town in Kimbundo (and Kikongo) but does not say that it is also the name that Angolans call a handmade guitar with rudimentary materials, as Assis Júnior attested in its Kimbundu-Portuguese dictionary. The Angolan rudimentary mandolin is also known as cambanza as Oscar Ribas refers to in his “Dictionary of Angolan Regionalisms”.

In the text that accompanies the image (below) of the young negro with a “rounded cordophone like the banjo” of the book “The Tears: A Portuguese Black Dance”, author José Ramos Tinhorão discusses the Kimbundu origin of the word and refers to Banza Was also used until the beginning of the 20th century to designate the guitar used to play the Portuguese fado.

Most of the African instruments and rhythms entered the New World culture through religious rituals and other social ceremonies brought by Africans into the Americas, as depicted in the seventeenth-century painting of German soldier and artist Zacharias Wegener – “Negertanz” – which depicts a An African spiritual ceremony on a Brazilian farm that the historian James Sweet described as being a slave ceremony of Angolan origin that in Brazil (and later in Portugal) became popular with the name calundu (lundu), which is a corruption of the word kilundu of the Kimbundu. The calundu is a ritual that involves music played with African instruments (Angolan in the case) like, ngoma, puíta and dikanza. This ceremony, similar to the ritual of Xinguilamento, was one of the most important sources of dances and music of African origin present in the Americas today, and an important part of this music are the instruments that Africans built on the other side of the Atlantic based on the references they took from Africa.

Afro-Brazilian culture was enormously influenced by slaves of Angolan origin and today it is impossible to imagine Brazilian music without the cuíca (puíta in Angola), without the canzá (that was born from the dikanza) and the capoeira, that also was taken to Brazil by Angolans, can not be practiced without the unmistakable sound of the berimbau, which is the Brazilian name for hungu played in Angola.

In Brazil today the drums that the Angolans call ngoma the jonggo practitioners – the jongueiros – call angoma or tambu, a word that may be linked to also that means death, since such batuques were very present in the funeral ceremonies. The story goes that the current jongo originated in a game of divination and ceremonies of Angolan deity and the rhythm is the responsibility of previously consecrated batuques (ngoma and tambu), puíta, berimbau and luso-arabic pandeiro.

At present, many of the musical styles recognized as Brazilian are an evolution of African (notably Angolan) cultural expressions, and just as the jongo samba also has in its genesis religious manifestations brought to Brazil by slaves and has the sound of ngoma, , Dikanza and rudimentary string instruments at its base.

The definition of samba as “black dance”, followed by the explanation that “today is a very lively term in the sense of musical composition”. The word samba, from the epoch quimbundo / quicongo kusamba, means to pray, to pray to the gods and ancestors, always celebrated with dances, songs and songs, celebrations that certainly were seen with strangeness and of playful character by the surrounding Catholic society. Contagious by the rhythmic and gestural cadence of dance, what used to be black dance was emptied of its original religious content and black-African samba-prayers were appropriated in the category of musical-dance genres to become world-renowned as the most authentic and representative expression Of Brazilian musicality.

In “The African Influence in Brazilian Portuguese” by Yeda Castro

Another old slave society with a great tradition of music of African origin is the Cuban one and there, as in Brazil, the children of the kingdoms of the Ndongo and Kongo took their instruments to accompany their sociocultural ceremonies and the religious manifestation of bakongo origin. Congo ** (or Palo Monte or Palo Mayombe) introduced the makuta drum (or tomb or tumbadora) to the Cubans who after many years gave birth to the modern conga, an industrial production batuque that inherited the expressiveness of its ancestor of artisan production. The congas are present in the rhythmic constitution of the congada, the Cuban cultural expression that has equivalents in Brazil and in other Caribbean countries with conguesa origin. Another name for the tumbadora in Cuba is Tambó, whose etymology I do not know how much can originate from the word tambor (or tamburro latin) as it can be equivalent to the Brazilian tambú and is connected to the funeral rituals (tambi).

Before Cuba received large numbers of slaves, the main recipients of African slaves in the Spanish colonies of the Americas were what Mexico and Peru are today, and both countries received many slaves from what is now Angola. In Peru, the landó and samba landó are versions of what in Brazil was called lundu, that is to say, a dance originating from religious ceremonies of slaves mundongo and bakongo in those lands where there is also the conga, similar to the Cuban and Brazilian comparsas .

In Costa Rica, neighboring Cuba, there is a musical instrument that is the heritage of that country whose origin is still controversial in some cycles that claim to be of Amerindian origin. However, many scholars consider the Costa Rican quijongo to be an instrument of African origin, probably bakongo or mundongo. Indeed, the bow that integrates a gourd as a resonator of the rope that connects the two ends of the bow is the twin brother of the hungu and in that Caribbean island many slaves of Angolan origin were imported by the Spanish settlers. The word quijongo may be related to kinjongo that in kimbundu means grasshopper.

The hungu diffusion was not limited to the European colonies in the Americas, in the eighteenth century the same instrument was heard in the streets of Lisbon when African and Afro-Brazilian slaves joined Lisbon to celebrate interpreting what was called at the time of “modinhas do Brasil “Which included the lundu and second José Ramos Tinhorão these celebrations were the embryo of the Portuguese dance rips.

Among the instruments taken by Angolans to other lands during the period of the transatlantic slave trade, the one that obtained the most notoriety and geographical presence is probably the marimba. The instrument taken by the natives of the lands of the Ngola and the Kingdom of Kongo to the other side of the Atlantic is now played in almost all the countries of the Caribbean and Central America and is present in the sound culture of all regions of the American continent. The marimba is Guatemala’s national instrument, indispensable for Costa Rican cultural identity and among the most traditional instruments of Afro-descendant sounds in the Americas.

The modern marimbas of industrial production as well as the handcrafts present today in the Caribbean and Central America are different from the most traditional national marimbas. The structure of the instrument has undergone changes throughout the years in the Americas as evidenced by the evident differences between the illustration of Father Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi of the seventeenth century made during his visit to Angola and the painting of the Peruvian artist Pancho Fierro representing Afro-Peruvian marimba players in Second half of the 19th century.

In Cuba and in other parts of the Caribbean and Central America (Puerto Rico, Honduras, Dominican, Venezuela, Mexico) there is also the marmbula (or marimból), which despite its name resembles a giant kissanji Box with metal keys. On the other hand, the kissanji or finger piano (known in other parts of Africa as mbira) was played in several African territories and was actually one of the instruments most used by slaves in the Americas.

Indeed, in the region of Rio de la Plata (Urugai and Argentina) where many Angolan slaves were taken, the finger piano is also known as the quisanche and phonetics and form do not hide the origin of the Angolan kissanji. It was these Africans who laid the foundations of the Candombe culture present in both countries and the movements of the Candombe River Plateau constitute the stem cell of the tango, cultural symbol more easily associated with Argentina. The afroportenho tango of Buenos Aires differs from the Cuban tango congo, as well as the modern version of the tango but its African root is undeniable as shown in the illustration from 1882 below.

The iconic Mexican musician Carlos Santana once said that “the music they call Latin or Hispanic is actually African. That is why the blacks have to receive the laurels, “is certainly a simplification but it is not far from the truth and it is not pretense no Angolans claim a share of significant influence in the formation of the musical culture not only of Latin America but also of the music Afro-American music from the North American continent and Afro-Caribbean music since many of the instruments and rhythms that are at the basis of New World Creole music were taken there by the children of the coastal villages and interior of contemporary Angola embarked in the ports of Luanda, Benguela, Kakongo, Mpinda, Ambriz and Angra do Negro.


The gourd-shaped instruments that eventually became the banjo in the USA were developed by slaves mostly in the southern United States and Appalachia, and by the process had different names like bangie, bango, banjar, banjil banza, banjer, and banjar.

Another theory considers the word of Kimbundu (or Kimbundu) m’banza, which means town or village, as another possible source of the word banjo. Quimbundo is the language spoken by one of the largest ethnic groups in modern Angola. When the Portuguese settlers and the owners of American slaves began to call the banjo instrument, they may have been influenced by the word m’banza. They may also have been influenced by the word banzo, which the Brazilian slaves generated as an expression of the pain they felt to be kept in captivity. Curiously, Brazilian slaves typically expressed banzo when they played banjo. The word banzo may also have originated from the word m’banza.


** It is worth recalling that the former Kingdom of Kongo should not be confused with DR Congo or the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and is often confused with references to “Congo” (Or “Kongo,” congo “,” conga “,” congada “, etc.) that appear in the (and present) history of the New World and Africa pre-conference Berlin since the Kingdom of Kongo was centered in Angola And although they were often cataloged as “congos” slaves originating in the Kingdom of Loango (Congo Brazzaville) and north of Lake Malebo (now DR Congo) the great majority of the “congos” taken to the new world not only embarked from ports in the Coast of present-day Angola as they were captured in territories that are now part of Angola. Thus, being a simplification, calling the Angolan congos slaves looking at the current borders is not a gross error even because according to Nathan Nunn estimates Angola exported to the New World 4.2x more slaves than the DRC and Congo combined


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