There was no more radical shift in production and/or styles in popular music than the jarring lurch that happened in many parts of the globe at the dawn of the 1980s. With music in much of sub-Saharan Africa, the raw imperfections that had brought listeners some of the most endlessly vital recordings gave way to a tininess, as awareness of a global market played a role in perceptions of what something that would sell needed to sound like. And while percolating grooves were still to be found underneath the gloss, a lot of good sounds died a hard death as well. Fortunately for lovers of buoyant, body moving, raw guitar-based music everywhere, São Tomé and Príncipe were still churning out the heavy stuff as late as 1985, as this collection of extended rhumba and puxa jams so emphatically demonstrates.
A companion to Bongo Joe’s recent compilation from these islands, Leve Leve: Sao Tomé & Principe sounds 70s-80s, this record, featuring a single artist and only 4-extended tracks long, is perhaps even more consistent than its predecessor. If that’s even possible. Lima, who died in 2019 at the age of 74, had been gigging with bands since he was a teenager, including his family band Os Leoneses. He did feature on a single Leve Leve track, but, "Maguidala," considered his best work, allows him and his band a deserved spotlight, especially since original copies of this record go for hundreds of dollars when they turn up at all. Lima’s voice conveys a subtle warmth over simmering, intertwining guitar patterns for a sound that might be mistaken for anything from soukous to benga. But because these islands’ inhabitants, brought from the African mainland as slaves 500 years ago, invented their own rhythms, what’s on offer here doesn’t quite sound like anything else from the time or region. What it does have in common with so much other African popular music of the time is a relentless drive, an ability to build on a vamp to fever pitch, and give opportunity for lead and harmony vocals to bounce off of each other like ping pong balls. Lima’s music is the sound of post-colonial celebration, music infused with joy that managed to override the country’s unemployment and poverty. That music this contagious is being released during a global pandemic somehow makes sense. - Bruce Miller
Leve Leve: Sao Tomé & Principe sounds 70s-80s
Legendary pop music of Cape Verde