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Music of Guinea-Bissau

Page history last edited by Peter Anderson 13 years, 4 months ago
Page Editor is Alexandra Spautz. Please email me with suggestions, comments, or compliments!

genre + language




Super Mama Djombo - No Cambanca (click here for youtube video)



Guinea-Bissau's primary musical export is described as polyrhythmic gumbe. However gumbe, and other genres have remained outside of mainstream African audiences, because political powers have censored certain lyrics in the genre that describe civil unrest.

The calabash is the primary/traditional musical instrument of Guinea-Bissau, and is used in extremely swift and rhythmically complex dance music.

Although Bijago, or Bidyogo, is the language of the Bissagos Archipelago of Guinea-Bissau, song lyrics are almost always in a Portuguese-based creole language called Guinea-Bissau creole. Song lyrics are often humorous and topical, revolving around current events and controversies, especially AIDS.

Gumbe can refer to any music of the country, although when the word is used properly it refers to a unique style that fuses a number of Guinea-Bissau folk music traditions. Folk traditions include ceremonial music used in funerals, initiations and other rituals. Less well known names of other types of music from Guinea-Bissau are Tina and Tiga, as well as Balanta brosca and kussund, Mandinga djambadon and the kundere sound of the Bijagos islands.







playing ; see link here for sound/video





“In Africa Calabashes (“nkalu” in Kikongo) are used to collect and store palm wine in Bandundu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Hollowed out and dried calabashes are a very typical utensil in households across West Africa. They are used to clean rice, carry water and also as food containers. Smaller sizes are used as bowls to drink palm-wine. Calabashes are used by some musicians in making the kora (a harp-lute), xalam/ngoni (a lute) and the goje (a traditional fiddle). They also serve as resonators on the balafon (West African marimba). The calabash is also used in making the shegureh (a Sierra Leonean women’s rattle)[13] and balangi (a Sierra Leonean type of balafon) musical instruments. Sometimes, large calabashes are simply hollowed, dried and used as percussion instruments, especially by Fulani, Songhai, Gur-speaking and Hausa peoples. In Nigeria, the calabash has been used to avoid a law requiring the wearing of a helmet on a motorcycle.[14]

In South Africa it is commonly used as a drinking vessel by tribes such as the Zulus. Recently the Soccer City stadium which will host the FIFA World Cup has been completed and its shape takes inspiration from the calabash.” -wikipedia




Ze Carlos (click here for wiki article on Ze)


Independence from Portugal came in 1974, after long years of struggle. In contrast to other Portuguese colonies like Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde, the fado song tradition did not penetrate Guinea-Bissau to any significant degree. Gumbe was the first popular song tradition to arise in the country, and began in 1973 with the recording of Ernesto Dabo's "M'Ba Bolama" in Lisbon. Dabo's record producer was Ze Carlos, who had formed the most popular band in Guinea-Bissau's history, Cobiana Djazz, in 1972. The next popular band to form was Super Mama Djombo, whose 1980 debut, Cambanca, was tremendously popular across the country.

These early bands, and others like Africa Livre, Chifre Preto and Kapa Negra, had a stormy relationship with Guinea-Bissau's dictatorial government. Ze Carlos criticized the administration, and died in a plane crash in Havana under suspicious circumstances that many of his fans believed to indicate a government role in his murder. Later, Super Mama Djambo both supported the PAIGC and mocked its perceived nepotism and corruption.

In the 1980s, genres like kussunde began to become popular across the country, led by Kaba Mane, whose Chefo Mae Mae used an electric guitar and Balanta lyrics. Some performers were banned by the govern ment, including Ze Manel after he began singing "Tustumunhus di aonti" (Yesterday's Testimony) in 1983, using lyrics written by Huco Monteiro, a poet. Justino Delgado, another popular singer, was arrested for criticizing President Joao Bernardo Vieira.


Music links:










Comments (3)

Matt Mochizuki said

at 6:56 pm on Jan 31, 2011

Sources clearly listed and easily accessible.

Annette Diniz said

at 9:50 am on Feb 2, 2011

I love folk music, sound alot like the Goan music I grew up with.

SfWhitehorn@gmail.com said

at 6:19 pm on Feb 7, 2011

puts me in the mind of an musician by the name of Zap Mama...Afro-Latin groove...Look her up if you get the chance.

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