Gato Bedseyele was forced to flee Angola in 1986 and now lives in Belgium. A founding member of the Angolan group Afra Sound Stars, he left his war-torn country with just $50 USD in his pocket after deserting the army.
Gato had been forcibly recruited several times, the first time aged 12. Believing he was wasting his life, he headed to Brazil, Portugal and then Belgium.
He struggled in exile. “Music has allowed me to survive. I don’t know where I’d be without it.”
A songwriter and multi-faceted musician, Gato sings in Portuguese, French, Kikongo and several other languages. He has made several albums, and played with Brazilian star Gilberto Gil, and Angolans Bonga and Felipe Mukenga.
He had hoped to study, “to become somebody, maybe a journalist or a lawyer“. Now Gato wants to see refugee children complete their studies and ‘have dreams for the future“.
The hardships an immigrant faces in a new country include integration, long working hours, xenophobia. A new immigrant looks for work to earn money and send it back to the family he left behind.
He is now part of the Sairy Band, a group formed by African musicians from many different countries led by Malagasy musician Miary Lepiera.
Absaite, with Afra Sound Stars (Soproson DCD1022, 1993)
Refugee Voices-Building Bridges (2001)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV 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 albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.