‘Mona Ki Ngi Xica’ is part of Angolan artist Bonga’s album Angola 72, one of the most powerful and influential protest albums ever recorded. The album was smuggled into Angola and Portugal, and was a soundtrack for revolutionaries fighting for independence as the Portuguese dictatorship and colonial rule crumbled.
The album was recorded in the Netherlands, the sounds are a mix of latin guitar and semba, traditional Angolan music, reflecting the patriotism and Angolan pride as well as the acceptance of other cultures.
Bonga Kuenda was born José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho a hundred kilometers North-east of Luanda, capital of Angola. He grew up in a musical family, he accompanied his father on a dikanza (a traditional percussion instrument) and music was part of his life from a very young age. In his concerts, he often plays an instrument consisting of a gourd and a stick known as a guiro, or other percussion instruments. It is clear in his music that percussion is protagonist and his songs have a soulful danceable rhythm.
In his late teens he became the Angolan champion at the 100 metres – and then 200 and 400 metres – before moving to Lisbon at the invitation of the Sport Lisboa e Benfica club in 1966 to pursue an athletic career. Like a perfect citizen, in Portugal he won the 400 meters race representing the country, but the atrocity and injustice of colonialism never sat with him. The country was under a dictatorship led by Antonio Salazar who had ruled the country since 1936. Portugal first occupied the southern African nation more than five centuries ago, and ultimately incorporated it into an empire that included Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe.
Leading a triple life, and using the protection of his status as professional athlete, Josè Adelino associated himself with the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and began a clandestine life as a protest singer under the name Bonga Kuenda, meaning ‘he who is looking, who is always ahead and moving’. Under the dictatorships, such crimes were punished with death or torture. Bonga recalls that this was a way to gain back the Angolan cultural heritage,”Since we had no weapons to fight with, we resisted on a cultural level…”
In 1972 Bonga fled to Rotterdam where he recorded his first album, Angola 72. Rotterdam was home to many portuguese – speaking Africans, which might have had an influence on his musical style. The album is a collection of songs that have been described as “ardently political”, which caused him a warrant for his arrest, forcing him to live between France, Germany and Netherlands for the next years. Talking about Bonga’s musical style Peter Margasak said:
Bonga’s music is imbued with same the quality that distinguishes Evora’s. It’s called saudade, and it has no exact English translation, but it suggests a deep bittersweet longing, often for one’s homeland.
Music has traditionally served both to soothe those who suffer from social and political turmoil and to unify opposition to its source. But for decades now, much like the rai singers of Algeria, the most popular artists from Angola have lived and worked abroad. In this case it’s not that they’re censored–it’s just that the country is a mess.
Although the information on ‘Mona Ki Ngi Xica’ is limited, the song is about a child leaving his native country, connecting to Angolan exiles. Sang as a lament, the song manages to surpass language barriers, perfectly depicting a feeling of longing and pride for one’s land.
Attention! I’m in mortal danger And I’ve already warned you
She will stay here and I will go away
This child of mine
Evil people are after her
This child of mine
On a tide of misfortune
God gave me this offspring
That I brought into the world
And she will stay here
When I am gone