Its nighttime in 1960’s Luanda, and the city’s indígenas are starting to crowd the social clubs that have popped up on the outskirts of the city. The danceable rhythms heard at places like Maxinde or Giro-Giro even draw out the occasional Portuguese colonists from the comforts of the city center.  Crowds throng as the musicians begin to play the festive, exuberant dance music known to residents of Luanda as semba.

The music which captivated Angola’s capitol came about as rural folk songs collided with Cuban rumbas and Brazilian music heard on the radio. Bands like Ngola Ritmos first pioneered semba in the 1940’s, founding a musical form which celebrated native Angolan culture. By the 1970’s Luanda had tripled in population, spurring the development of the musseques, makeshift neighborhoods built from scrap materials by recent arrivals to the city. It was here that semba became inextricably tied to “angoladade,” a burgeoning nationalist cultural sensibility which sought to distance itself from Portuguese identity in the midst of the Angolan rebellion against Portugal.

Under the rule of the self-identified corporate fascist Antonio Salazar, Portugal was able to retain colonies long after other Western powers had submitted to the worldwide decolonization movement. In 1961, two different nationalist liberation parties open fronts against Portuguese authority. As the state was kept busy fighting the rebellion in the rural areas, the Golden Age of Angolan music developed in Luanda’s musseques where European influence was minimal. In 1975, the corporate fascist state was overturned by a military coup in Portugal,  effectively ending the rebellion in favor of the Angolans. Unfortunately, the subsequent civil war brought an abrupt end to Angola’s musical renaissance as the political forces controlling Luanda, threatened by the popularity of the semba players, brutally eliminated the country’s most popular musicians, including many of the artists featured on this playlist.