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A Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, from 1945 to Recent Times

Marissa J. Moorman

Publication Year: 2008

Intonations tells the story of how Angola's urban residents in the late colonial period (roughly 1945-74) used music to talk back to their colonial oppressors and, more importantly, to define what it meant to be Angolan and what they hoped to gain from independence. Author Marissa J. Moorman presents a social and cultural history of the relationship between Angolan culture and politics. She argues that it was in and through popular urban music, produced mainly in the capital city of Luanda's musseques (urban shantytowns), that Angolans forged the nation and developed expectations about nationalism. Through careful archival work and extensive interviews with musicians and those who attend performances in bars, community centers, and cinemas, Moorman explores the ways in which the urban poor imagined the nation. The spread of radio technology and the establishment of a recording industry in the early 1970s reterritorialized an urban-produced sound and cultural ethos by transporting music throughout the country. When the formerly exiled independent movements returned to Angola in 1975, they found a population receptive to their nationalist message but with different expectations about the promises of independence. In producing and consuming music, Angolans formed a new image of independence and nationalist politics. A compilation of Angolan music is included in CD format.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

Music on CD

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xvii

At the outset, this project looked like folly. It is thanks to many people, on many continents, and in many capacities that it has come to be a reality. To all of them I am deeply grateful. First and foremost, I offer heartfelt thanks to the men and women who shared their memories and stories with me. In the often harsh and crushing conditions of war-torn Angola, I never ceased to be...

Abbreviations and Terms

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pp. xix-xxii

Timeline of Nationalism and Independence in Angola

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pp. xxiii

Timeline of Angolan Music

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pp. xxv

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pp. 1-27

In May 1998, Alberto Teta Lando, a musician and local businessman in the capital Luanda, told me that three of the most popular musicians from the late 1960s and early 1970s had been killed by the government of independent Angola in 1977.1 They had too much power over the people, he said. Teta Lando implied that these musicians were more popular and better-known among the...

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1. Musseques and Urban Culture

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pp. 28-55

Luandans assert an imaginary of nation and contemporary history born of particular musseques. In casual conversations and in interviews, Luandans repeatedly offered me a meaningful map of their city. Bairro Oper

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2. In the Days of Bota Fogo: Culture and the Early Nationalist Struggle, 1947–61

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pp. 56-80

This chapter explores the connection between culture and nationalist political activity in the 1950s. It offers a perspective on life and cultural activities in the musseques unavailable either in the social science tracts of colonial origin or in the literary treatments by nationalist writers. Opening up an interior view of the relationship between culture and nationalism grounded in...

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3. Dueling Bands and Good Girls: Gender and Music in Luanda’s Musseques, 1961–75

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pp. 81-109

One prominent historian of Angola refers to 1961 as the pivot of Angola’s contemporary history. The year signals a rupture in the Angolan historical narrative in relation to colonial rule and the metanarrative of Angolan nationalism. Three popular revolts occurred in 1961. In January cotton producers in the Baixa de Kassanje, east of Malanje, rebelled against the system of...

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4. “Ngongo Jami” (My Suffering): Lyrics, Daily Life, and Musical Space, 1956–74

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pp. 110-139

In the mid-1950s, the band Ngola Ritmos performed at the Teatro Nacional (National Theater) in Luanda’s baixa. The venue’s name referred, of course, to the Portuguese nation that embraced Angola as an overseas territory. This was no longer custodial colonialism but fierce possession dressed up in lusotropicalist discourse. Angolan “folklore,” which Ngola Ritmos represented, served...

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5. Radios, Turntables, and Vinyl: Technology and the Imagined Community, 1961–75

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pp. 140-164

The music of Luanda’s musseques produced meaning through sound, dance, space, and story. It symbolized the world of cultural sovereignty, of African-owned and -run clubs, and of African-produced music that drew on rural and cosmopolitan resources to express an urban Angolan experience. In the production and consumption of this music, people created a sense of...

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6. The Hiatus: Music, Dissent, and Nation Building after Independence, 1975–90s

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pp. 165-189

Given the vibrancy of the music scene and its relationship to the battle for the nation, it is perhaps no surprise that music came to play an important role in the battle over the new nation. A military coup in Portugal in April 1974, announced when the radio station played Zeca Afonso’s “Grândola, Vila Morena,” set the stage for Angolan independence and, simultaneously, for...

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pp. 190-196

I don’t completely agree with Chico Coio on the state of Angolan music. Young Angolan musicians have produced some mordant lyrics that punctuate infectious if not necessarily complex beats. And some young artists, in particular Paulo Flores, have gone acoustic and reinvigorated the semba of yesteryear. But while Coio says Angolan music has, in his words, “no expression,” he also says much more than...


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pp. 197-253


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pp. 255-273


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pp. 275-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443040
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821418246

Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Angola -- History -- Civil War, 1975-2002 -- Music and the war.
  • Angola -- History -- Revolution, 1961-1975 -- Music and the revolution.
  • Music -- Social aspects -- Angola -- Luanda (Luanda).
  • Music -- Political aspects -- Angola.
  • Nationalism in music.
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