Audio

This Angolan Singer Is Recreating Classic Semba Songs With a Twist

Toty Sa’Med wants to introduce a new generation to the classic sounds of semba—the prototypical genre at the heart of modern Angolan music.

Angolan singer Toty Sa’Med took on the task of introducing a new generation to the classic sounds of semba—the prototypical genre at the heart of modern Angolan music—with his first solo EP Ingombota.


The project’s title, which means “a place of refuge for the persecuted,” is named after the district in Angola’s capital, Luanda, where Sa’Med was born. The EP features both original recordings by the artist and reinterpretations of classic semba songs.

The idea to “rescue old sembas” came about after producer Kalaf Epalanga (of Buraka Som Sistema), heard Sa’Med perform some of the genre’s older cuts live. The two collaborated to produce the six soul-stirring tracks on Ingombota.

“What makes it cool to embrace the old semba is the fact that, through this, a group of young Angolans are willing to know their history, its poets, and their languages. And there's nothing cooler than knowledge,” says the musician.

Toty Sa'Med. Photo: Luaty Almeida.

The lead single, "Mona Ki Ngi Xiça," is a cover of an Angolan bolero, originally sung by Bonga. Sa’Med adds warm vocals and melodious guitar riffs to deliver a gorgeous blues and jazz-inflected rearrangement of the song. The single comes with an accompanying music video which sees the singer offering a calming performance in a stripped-down studio.

The fact that Sa’Med is recreating older semba cuts, doesn’t make his music any less refreshing.

Get familiar with the vintage sounds of Angola, through the re-imaginings of Sa’Med, and peep the music video for “Mona Ki Ngi Xiça” above.

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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