Songlines, Bonga rediscovers his form - with sensational results >>
Bonga’s career stretches back to 1972, but he never rode the world music wave to the wide audiences he deserved. That’s partly because in the last decade or so his music hasn’t been quite up to the high standards he established earlier. But Kaxexe sees a triumphant return to form. The inimitable voice is back – raspy, scratchy, almost sandpaper smooth – and the accomplished songwriting is couched in arrangements that are tasteful, understated and lovingly rendered.
Bonga has always carried a pan-Lusophone musical standard, having worked with artists and traditions from Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Portugal as well as his own Angola, to all of which he has added a sensual, softened soukous. All these elements are present in this remarkable collection that is at once varied and expertly paced. There are many of the slow ballads we’ve come to expect, offset by a welcome mid and up-tempo material that is at turns heartbreaking and heartwarming.
The lyrics have much in common with Cape Verdean morna American blues and other soulful musical forms that spela of love, loss and longing, of people who have known exile from the land they love of the people they treasured. It’s all tempered by a transcended spirit, humanity and integrity. We have known suffering, the songs and melodies seem to say, but prevail. Music lovers and radio programmers, take note. Bonga is not only a standard-bearer but a standard-setter, and Kaxexe is a gem from start to finish. Highly recommended.
5 Stars * * * * *
Gerald Seligman 01/03/04