After laying down the soundtrack for São Tomé & Príncipe’s independence, they were driven apart by success. Now the stars are back together.
The story of Conjunto África Negra began forty years ago in São Tomé & Príncipe, Africa’s second-smallest country. In this island state in the Gulf of Guinea, a funky backbeat, the sparkling guitars of Emídio Vaz and Leonildo Barros and the voluminous voice of João Serra provided the soundtrack to the country’s newly won independence. In the 1980s, África Negra played concerts all over lusophone Africa, as well as in Portugal, where they triumphed over Guinea’s Supa Mama Djombo in a spontaneous contest. They are probably one of the few African bands to have broken up because they were satiated with success. But a global rare-groove fan community continued to grow and demanded a second helping. In 2008, África Negra launched a comeback, and three of its original members are again on tour – with new bandmates but the same old amplifiers.