Cabinda Ritmo ‘Filomena’ (N’Gola, early 1970’s)
Cabinda, once parte of a larger territory known as the Portuguese Congo, is a northern Angolan exclave on the Atlantic shores neighboring western D.R. Congo and southern Republic of the Congo. To this day there are those who speak of a distinct Cabindan cultural sensibility and separatist rhetoric is common. Merged with Angola in the 1950s by administrative facility under Portuguese rule, the territory was carelessly granted independence as an Angolan province on the 1974-1975 decolonization rush.
But the burgeoning late-sixties to mid-seventies local music scene is rightly romanticized. Bands like Cabinda Ritmo (or Ritmos, as sometimes spelled), Super Coba, Ngoma Jazz, Super Renovação, Super Landa Bango, Super R3 and Bela Negra were indeed producing something rather distant from its Luanda counterparts – mellifluous, eloquent, emotionally engaging and fundamentally different.
Cabinda Ritmo’s lyrics were sung in Lingala or Kikongo and its delivery is close to that of Congo archetypal singers like Tabu Ley Rochereau. But it’s the refined treatment of the rhythmic and harmonic properties of Angolan popular music of the period that do set the band apart. Thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating, songs like “Celestina”, “Chika”, “Rosa”, “Nazeli Mingi” and “Merengue Tira Frio” are a testament to Cabinda Ritmo’s technical prowess and flamboyance.
Issued by N’gola with ref# LD–100 Adriano Mueno’s “Filomena” is a fluid and sophisticated rumba (“Celestina” was the A-side). The delay and reverb drenched callings introduce a couple of guitar flourished melodies that are just slightly angular and follow each other with mathematical precision. It’s a sustained and teasing effort channeling Franco and Nico’s hypnotic abilities. Slowly, the expressive ostinato motif moves to the percussion and you sense an impending rhythmic shift that gets deliberately delayed until you’re already half through it. You were waiting for it but never saw it coming. The beat irregularity on such a stable track is audacious and part of the band’s essential impetus.
These strategies paid off as Luanda was mesmerized with Cabinda Ritmo. An often repeated anecdote has the Kiezos deceiving a PIDE (Portugal’s International and State Defence Police) interrogation in 1972 by stating that the “go away, this can’t be, this has to improve” chants of the “Milhorro” song were not directed to the colonial powers but to Cabinda Ritmo, the out-of-towners that were “stealing all their girlfriends and audience”. The PIDE officials, so aware of the Cabindan band reputation, believed what they were told.
Unfortunately not a lot is known about Cabinda Ritmo’s members. As usual, if you have any information about the band please feel free to use the commentary box.
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