Léve Léve is the first ever compilation devoted to music from São Tome and Principe – two small islands situated off the coast of Gabon in central Africa – and is set to be released on Bongo Joe. It’s compiled by French DJ and crate digger, DJ Tom B, who’s been collecting for 20 years. It was through collecting Angolan music that he was first introduced to the unique island music of São Tome and Principe, which like Angola, has a long history of slavery and Portuguese colonialism.
Tom, who has met musicians across the islands and saved many rarities from extinction, says: “[Luís] an employee from the main Cultural Centre introduced me to many musicians and sold me some records that belonged to his father…they had been sitting there in the jungle for 30 years, in the dust, with a humid smell that exists to this day.” Léve-Léve represents the first bounty from his search – there is still much more to come.
During colonial times they were once known as the “Chocolate Islands” (these two tiny islands were the largest cocoa producers in the world, making evident their exploitation). The Portuguese importing of culture influenced expression, but throughout music would be a fundamental voice of liberation, before independence and celebration afterwards.
The tracks complied will help to unravel a story of gaining sovereignty and freedom – where the music of Africa, Europe and the Americas unify with a carefree spirit personified by a phrase the islanders use all the time: “léve léve” (“take it easy”). As with other countries that have fought for independence, there are fusions of culture. This music echoes of Angolan semba and merengue, of Brazilian afoxê, of coladeira from Cape Verde and dance music from the Caribbean. It’s is influenced by elsewhere, but it is also a sound fiercely proud of its island heritage, with artists singing in local dialects and musicians using distinctive local rhythms.
Os Úntués were one of the first groups to make an impression, releasing a couple of 7 inches in Angola. Crossing over this way was the barometer of commercial success and recognition for any of the islands’ groups. These groups united unique rhythms and dances like socopé, puita and dança-congo. And these dances were created among the islands’ largely slave-descendant population. They fused with the sound of pop music imported from afar onto the commercial radio from Europe, even adding in a little bit of soukous and Brazilian instrumentation. Their main rivals were Conjunto Mindelo, who fused São Toméan rhythms with rebita, an Angolan style, to create high energy puxa, a truly original island rhythm. The compilation digs really deep and presents other bands that became famed on the islands.
The compilation is out in January 2020.
Léve Léve Tracklisting
01 Africa Negra – Mino bô bé quacueda (1983)
02 Africa Negra – Aninha (1981)
03 Africa Negra – Zimbabwe (1981)
04 Pedro Lima – Nga ba compensadora (1987)
05 Sangazuza – Cortição (1983)
06 Sangazuza – Sun Malé (1983)
07 Os Úntuès – Piquina piquina
08 Os Úntuès – Chi bô sá migu di védê
09 Sum Alvarinho – M’konvètá dédo (1989)
10 Sum Alvarinho – Tólá Muandgi (1989)
11 Conjunto Equador – Meu dy plôcô (1985)
12 Conjunto Equador – Madô (1985)
13 Tiny das Neves e Conjunto Sol d’Africa – Cladênço padê cluço (1983)
14 Pedro Lima e Conjunto Os Leonenses – Esatela licu (1978)
15 Conjunto Mindelo – Taji océdo
16 Agrupamento da Ilha – Bô gosa di so txi