Kimbundu: the Language of Angolan Freedom Songs Against Portuguese Colonizers

Stephen Nartey September 25, 2022
Photo Credit: David Stanley

Although many pro-independence songs were composed in Angola, the common language used to compose most of its liberation songs was a dialect known as kimbundu. Many of the composers had the benefit of learning the language at an early age before the advent of Portuguese colonizers who exploited every opportunity to demean its usage. 

The language Kimbunda was ‘weaponized’ to fight colonial rule by the Portuguese, according to Dr. Marisa Moorman, a professor in the Department of African Cultural Studies, in University of Wisconsin. She explained that when it became outlawed to sing in the Kimbundu language, they used it as a medium in the expressions of their aspirations for the future. 

Kimbundu is one of the dialects spoken by Angolans in the region close to its capital Luanda. 

The Portuguese during their rule of Angola made several attempts to undermine it as an inferior language to Portuguese. It was the goal of the Portuguese to suppress the way of life of the people to make it easy to dominate them. One of such strategies was the attack on the legitimacy of Kimbundu as a medium of expression. 

Researchers on Angola music and its impact on the fight against colonial rule, said the Kimbundu was the vehicle that enable the local people to challenge the authority of the colonizers. The Kimbundu channeled their thoughts, their feelings about the mistreatment and pushed the advocacy for independence from the Portuguese. 

Dr. Marissa in her paper on social and cultural history of the relationship between Angola culture and politics, said the local dialect was why the freedom fighters rode on to preach their message of national pride and galvanize support for their cause. 

The kimbundu language was given a further boost by the emergence of mass media in the early 1970s providing music composers with the platform to sell their message to a wider audience. Angolan Freedom fighters who were exiled in the 1970s, upon their return rebranded and consolidated the use of kimbunda In selling their message of nationalism.  They preached the need to regain their lands, they sensitized the population on the need for infrastructure to be improved, and the impoverishment of the local people. 

Dr. Marissa observed that traditional dance was adapted to match the songs crafted in kimbundu language to further the cause. It became a symbol of Angola struggles for independence and gained global recognition.  

When there were concerns about the Portuguese interfering in the governance of Angola Indirectly, local composers reawakened the kimbundu to raise the consciousness of the people.

Last Edited by:Sedem Ofori Updated: September 25, 2022


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