Waldemar Bastos: Renascence

Matt Cibula

Angolan music is heavily influenced by Portuguese and Brazilian music. This, of course, makes Waldemar Bastos' new album the most listenable music of the year.

Waldemar Bastos


Label: Times Square
US Release Date: 2005-05-24
UK Release Date: 2005-02-07
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate

Angola is a Lusophone country in Africa. That means they speak Portuguese there, which isn't really important other than that it's a great vocabulary word. What makes it important is that Angolan music is heavily influenced by Portuguese and Brazilian music, as well as by local forms like afropop and township jive.

This, of course, makes Waldemar Bastos' new album the most listenable music of the year. It's like the whole "two great tastes that taste great together" thing, except written large and played impeccably. There is true real beauty in the way the chiming King Sunny Adé-style guitars intersect, when they do, with samba-style percussion figures. O this dappled world! O the intersections and crossroads and trading posts of our information age!

Oh, and if you have any sense of modern history at all, you will also know that Angola was also gripped for many years by a horrible civil war that only ended in 2003. Bastos had been in exile for many years before returning with hope in his heart and joy in his soul... but also with all his sad memories intact. This is a semi-concept album about that return, and about the renaissance of the human heart that is going on in Angola right now.

Which is not to say that Bastos takes himself and his endeavors too seriously. In fact, these songs don't sound like any kind of grand synthetical experiment or huge musical statement; they just sound like lovely songs. Bastos has the hook-gift like very few other composers these days and an unusually dramatic voice that he can employ in a bunch of different moods: elegiac, overjoyed, smoothed-out, horny, wistful, devastated, grateful, you name it.

Some of the songs here, like the lazy opener "Outro Tempo Novo" and the more afropop-sounding "Dongo", sound like African songs with Portuguese singing; others sound more like Brazilian songs with African influence ("Paz, Pao E Amor" -- which means "Peace, Bread, and Love" -- and "Renascence"). But it is when Bastos successfully synthesizes the two styles that things really get to jumping off. "Esperanca" ("Hope") is a two-part song, with one foot in each continent, and "Sabores da Terra" brings raï strings and intertwining Bembeya-style guitar lines together with samba vocal arrangements and Bahian-sounding percussion.

And then there are pieces that avoid easy categorization altogether, like the weird reggae jam "Pitanga Madurinho", which shows up again at the end in a semi-reggaeton remix, complete with an unembarrassing Chaka Demus cameo. And "Twende Vossi" is just gentle soft music that starts out like ambient pop from heaven before morphing into South African township jive with a distinctly northern Brazilian flair. O the hybrid vigor of the 21st century!


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.