Just this summer Os Kiezos were back on the limelight with news of a pioneering contract with Fundação Sol, the cultural institution associated with Angola’s powerful Sol bank, itself an organization with close ties to the ruling MPLA party: on it, it was agreed that an undisclosed amount was to be transferred on a monthly basis to the band leader’s account in order to assure the band’s continuity and to improve its members’ living conditions. It was said that it “represented a firm commitment with a band that played an important role in assuring Angola’s national unity and cultural identity”.
And in no other single on the troubled post-independence days were the Kiezos so politically outspoken as in “Benguela Libertada/Memória de Guy”, released in 1976 to celebrate the defeat and retreat of the South-African army storming the country backing Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA. The artwork itself is a close-up photo of a pro-MPLA rally in Luanda highlighting a banner that reads: “Traitor Savimbe (sic). Ah… For how much did you sell Angola, our homeland.”! Don’t forget that MPLA’s Agostinho Neto had proclaimed Angola’s independence on November 11th, 1975, just after a significant victory of his military wing (FAPLA, aided by Cuban forces) over advancing FNLA and UNITA troops supported by Zairian and South-African regiments.
The particular twist on this tale is that the title track is composed and performed by Os Bongos’ Boto Trindade, then based on Luanda as a refugee (he and his band were from Lobito, a town in the Benguela province) and throughout the year performing with Os Kiezos in support of engaged singers such as David Zé, Urbano de Castro and Artur Nunes (sometimes entertaining MPLA’s troops as the FAPLA-Povo act).
It was precisely this sort of connection that Analog Africa’s musically excellent “Angola Soundtrack: The Unique Sound of Luanda 1968-1976” compilation missed out on, therefore not really conveying how dynamic and interchanging the band’s line-ups of the period were and how its production was affected by political constraints. And, while I’m at it, you would never know from hearing that (and like-minded) compilation and reading its liner notes just how rich a rock scene Angola had in the sixties, with bands like Brucutus, The Five Kings, The Black Stars, Os Rocks, Os Electrónicos, Os Jovens or Apollo XI. This is not a criticism but a reminder of how much work there is to be done!
But anyway, I’m digressing. I’ve already featured Os Kiezos on the Minguito and Pedrito posts and will undoubtedly return to such a crucial band with further biographical and chronological information. The above b-side was issued by N’Gola with ref# LD 331. The line-up:
Solo guitars: Marito and Boto; rhythm guitar: Gino; bass: Zeca; percussion: Julinho, Juventino, Antoninho and Adolfo Coelho.
One final note: some online chronicles by contemporaries of this release refer to “Memória de Guy” as a slow semba-rumba and to “Benguela Libertada” (which translates as “Liberated Benguela”) as, expectedly, a celebratory and joyous number. And yet, listening to the single you get the opposite impression. I have no idea if there was a labeling and printing mistake but it does seem more honest, in light of the subject matter, to share the more upbeat track.