The Basics: World Music


The Basics: World Music


By Richard O. Nidel


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Excerpt from the book



It has often been postulated that millions of years ago, before the world’s land mass split apart to form five continents, Angola and Brazil had been fused together. Examining the current coastlines of each country seems to support this possibility. What is undeniably true is that both countries were colonized by the Portuguese, and were major cogs in the slave trade, countries that continue to share cultural and musical ties with each other and their colonizers.

The Portuguese landed in what is now northern Angola circa 1482, encountering the kingdom of the Congo and to the south the Ngona people and their King Ngola, from whence the modern name of the country is derived. The Portuguese slaving system began in the sixteenth century, and by the nineteenth century Angola was one of the largest sources of slaves for Brazil and the Americas. Incredibly, slavery, redefined after the 1880s as the euphemistic “forced labor,” continued until 1961.

After the fall of the Estado Novo dictatorship in Portugal in 1974, a coalition of three separate movements that had been fighting the Portuguese in Angola came to power. The coalition soon broke down and civil war erupted into an international conflict.  There is a kind of “peace” now, but Angola remains one of the most corrupt nations on the planet circa 2017.


Semba is Angola’s traditional music, believed by many to lie at the heart of the more famous Brazilian Samba. The two styles sound quite different but share similar names and dance forms. Semba is an ancient dance rhythm accompanied by smooth undulation of the hips, . . .