Bonga Kwenda (born José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho), better known as Bonga, is a folk and semba singer and songwriter from Angola. Bonga was born in 1943 in the province of Bengo, and left Angola at age 23 to become an athlete, becoming the Portuguese record holder for the 400 metres (Angola was at the time one of Portugal's five African colonies). He had already begun his singing career at age 15.
Bonga abandoned athletics in 1972, concentrating solely on his music, and immediately became famous in his native Angola, as well as in Portugal. After the Carnation Revolution in April 1974, he would become a hit both with immigrants from the ex-Portuguese colonies, and Portuguese of both African and European descent. He has released over 30 albums, singing in Portuguese and traditional Angolan languages. His tracks are a mixture of Portuguese folk sounds, semba, kizomba and latin elements.
While Angola was still a Portuguese colony, Bonga was an outspoken supporter of independence. This led him to be exiled from Angola in the early 1970s. It was during this time that he launched his first album, Angola 72.
At this time, Portugal was ruled by the repressive, right-wing Estado Novo regime government, founded by Salazar. Bonga's status as a Portuguese star athlete allowed him the rare freedom of movement, which he used to carry messages between exiled freedom fighters and compatriots still in Angola. As the movement for independence heated up, Bonga was forced into exile in Rotterdam, where, in 1972, he recorded his first record Angola 72 and adopted the name Bonga Kwenda. A warrant for Bonga's arrest was issued in Angola for the seditious lyrics of the album, forcing him to move nomadically between Germany, Belgium and France until Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975 due to the events of the Carnation Revolution. While in Europe, Bonga met other Portuguese-speaking musicians and adopted the sounds of Samba into his already diverse music style.
After independence, the new Angolan government took Angola's best solo acts and founded and supported an orchestra called "Semba Tropical" . The purpose was to revive the lost music industry described by a ministry spokesman during the bands tour in Europe in the mid-1980s: "We had great problems because of the war for independence. When the Portuguese left they dismantled some of the basic structure by smashing and sabotaging equipment and we had to start from scratch. After independence there were no bands at all. Those which were formed were not active because they had no instruments."
After Angola's independence Bonga had established main residence in Lisbon, and lived for some time periods in Paris and Angola. As post-colonial life in Angola disintegrated into corruption, squalor, brutality, and an interminable and bloody civil war, Bonga remained critical of the political leaders on all sides. Bonga's voice of peace and conscience continues to make him a hero to the people of Angola no matter where he resides. He remains fiercely dedicated to the ideal of nonviolence, he states simply: "We must live without harming others".