Artist Profiles: Waldemar Bastos

Waldemar Bastos - Photo by Jorge Vismara
Waldemar Bastos – Photo by Jorge Vismara

Waldemar Bastos is one of the best known artists from Angola. He’s been living in Portugal for the last years, working with musicians from various backgrounds. His style is characterized by warm laid back sounds, sung in Portuguese, combined with powerful Congolese-style guitars.

”My music arises out of paradox,” says Waldemar Bastos . ”I am a professional musician who barely studied music, an African performer whose first album was recorded in South America, an artist from a war-torn country whose principal themes are peace and optimism, a singer/songwriter who is considered to be the voice of Angola, although I presently live in Portugal.”

Waldemar Bastos was born in Angola, on the border with Congo, in 1954. ‘Five centuries of colonization meant that when I was growing up I heard songs from many different cultures,” he explains. In addition to the African sounds he absorbed, he heard Brazilian music and cites the Beatles, Nat King Cole, the Bee Gees and Carlos Santana as early influences.

Bastos grew up in a country wrecked by war. First, a war of liberation, which began in the early 1960’s and ended in 1974 with the overthrow of the Portuguese dictator Salazar, and then a civil war that lasted for many years. Although both sides in the civil war tried to claim his music as their own, he refused to be drawn into partisan politics, instead offering a message emphasizing the value of all life, the beauty of the world, and the need for hope.

Nevertheless, the political climate in the newly independent country was not supportive of artists. The communist government was even more repressive than the colonial government it had replaced, and Bastos came to feel that he was in potential danger. In 1982 he defected from a cultural delegation visiting Portugal. For a time he lived in Brazil and later in Paris, and he now makes his home in Portugal.

After Angola became independent, Bastos began to write his own songs, in which African guitar-pop is laced with Brazilian and Portuguese influences. He recorded his first album, Estamos Juntos (We’re Together), in Brazil and two more, Angola Minha Namorada (My Sweetheart Angola) and Pitanga Madura (Ripe Pitanga Berry), after his return to Portugal.

Pretaluz (Blacklight) was recorded in the United States and released by Luaka bop. Pretaluz features Angolan and Portuguese musicians.

In April of 2003, Bastos went back to Angola for the first time in many years to perform in the national stadium in Luanda, the capital, in celebration of the ending of years of civil war. Since then he returned half a dozen times more, ensuring that the spirit of his African roots remained a powerful influence on his music.

His 2012 album Classics of My Soul features Derek Nakamoto on keyboards, Mitchell Long on guitars and The London Symphony Orchestra.

The message that Bastos brings to his audiences merges the suffering of his people and a longing for home with optimism and the power of love.

Discography:

Estamos Juntos
Angola Minha Namorada (EMI Records, 1990)
Pitanga Madura (EMI Records, 1992)
Pretaluz (Luaka Bop, 1998)
Renascence (World Connection, 2004/US: Times Square, 2005)
Love Is Blindness (2008)
Classics of My Soul (Enja, 2012)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

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