This is not quite an ethnic homecoming. There's a rich mix of countries and styles,...
Chris Moss 2005-02-03
It's seven years since Angolan singer Waldemar Bastos released his last album, Pretaluz/Blacklight. Since then he has turned 50, made a number of return trips to his - now generally peaceful - former homeland, and as this new disc shows, reflected on his African heritage and on his music.
Hope and reconciliation are among the themes explored on Renascence, and there is great maturity and even mellowness in many of the tracks. African guitars jangle, the percussion is pacy, horns slide in and out, but Bastos' voice trembles with restraint, as if he wants to measure out every thought and feeling. The singer's religious faith also imbues many tracks with a spiritual quality - Bastos has openlydeclaredhisbelief in music's healing powers.
It's not all wistful ruminating, though. "Esperanca" quite suddenly turns up the tempo and wiggles its hips. Without doubt, the revival of the 1994 Lusaka Peace Protocol in 1998 inspired the more upbeat themes and rhythms in several of the songs. As Bastos explains, "Going back was the key to this album because it was the first time I had ever seen peace in my country and hope and a belief in the future in people's faces".
While half a dozen trips fromLisbonbackto Angola since 2003 have given this exile a renascent interest in his roots, this is not quite an ethnic homecoming. Recorded in several cities across Europe, with UK/Jamaican producer Paul 'Groucho' Smykle (Big Audio Dynamite, Gregory Isaccs, Black Uhuru) at the helm, there's a rich mix of countries and styles. with African, Brazilian, Turkish (especially on "Sabores de Terra") and Western pop to the fore. For all his studied response to his Angolan roots, Bastos is a fan of the Bee Gees, and of Santana, and on a track like "Pitanga Madhurinha", there's a tribute to David Byrne's irreverent approach to world and roots sounds. This is seasoned Afro Pop - easy on the ear and seductive to the body. Bastos - older and wiser - is back in style.