The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier Steve Creedy

Reca­dos de Fora Bonga Lusafrica Born Jose Barcelo de Car­valho, the artist now more sim­ply known as Bonga, may not have much of a pro­file in Aus­tralia but he’s some­thing of a pop star in his na­tive An­gola and in Europe, where he’s re­garded as a bona-fide le­gend of post­colo­nial African mu­sic. The ti­tle of this sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian singer-song­writer’s 13th al­bum, which trans­lates as “Mes­sages From Else­where”, re­flects a life jour­ney in nonchrono­log­i­cal or­der that spans decades and coun­tries, from Bonga’s teenage days as a protest singer in his home­land with a grow­ing re­sent­ment of Portuguese rule to his present sta­tus as the mod­ern post-civil war voice of An­gola, where he re­cently re­turned to live af­ter a lengthy ex­ile over­seas. Dur­ing a spell in Por­tu­gal in his youth, Bonga ex­celled as an ath­lete, win­ning a na­tional track ti­tle and play­ing soc­cer for Ben­fica. There’s in­her­ent agility and grace in his soul­ful singing and in his songs, es­pe­cially those en­closed in the lo­cal genre, semba — a punchy samba and rum­bare­lated rhythm threaded with per­cus­sion, soar­ing sup­port singers, gy­rat­ing gui­tars, an­i­mated ac­cor­dion fills and brass breaks. Even in its faster paces, as in the car­ni­va­lesque bounce of the ti­tle track and Ngo Kuivu, and the per­cus­sion-dom­i­nated roots study Tono­kenu, Bonga’s husky voice ex­udes warmth and pas­sion. In aching lamen­ta­tions such as the Portuguese fado and Cape Verdean mor­nain­formed So­dade, Meu Bem, So­dade and Odji Maguado, the in­flu­ence of di­vas Ce­saria Evora and Maria Betha­nia peeps through. Over­all, Reca­dos de Fora is as se­duc­tive as the Buena Vista So­cial Club al­bum. It has the po­ten­tial to do for An­golan mu­sic what the lat­ter did for Cuban son and bolero. al­bum al­though Jarre, like Mike Old­field in his Tubu­lar Bells se­ries, pro­vides touch­points with the orig­i­nal. Jarre says he wanted to see what Oxy­gene could be if he com­posed it to­day and he has kept the min­i­mal­ist feel, with lit­tle use of per­cus­sion. An im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of key­boards cre­ates an an­themic back­drop that washes over the lis­tener and is punc­tu­ated by bright bursts of synth. The al­bum opens in fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory with me­tered synth notes over­laid by elec­tric pi­ano, and ends with the oth­er­worldly dirge of Oxy­gene Part 20.

In be­tween is an lush sonic land­scape that re­mains true to the orig­i­nal but never quite breaks out in the way you keep hop­ing it should. The melodic, up-tempo Oxy­gene Part 17 oc­cu­pies the Oxy­gene Part IV spot but doesn’t reach the heights of its pre­de­ces­sor. Over­all, Jarre has pro­duced a rich re­minder of the power of elec­tronic mu­sic but not some­thing that is about to rel­e­gate the orig­i­nal Oxy­gene from its po­si­tion of France’s best­selling al­bum.

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