Since the inauguration of Angola’s first Open Mic, the country’s burgeoning music scene has quickly exploded with a new momentum, a big contingent of musicians all working on their own original projects, or making music with one another. The scope of the music scene is starting to feel like that of the United States in the early 2000s, with tons of budding talent, and some people breaking through.

The biggest difference between Angola and other countries in Africa, however, is the perception that the music in Angola is for the elite and/or a failed state. You’d even need a VPN for something like redeeming your casino rewards from within the country…

Even though it was officially given independence in 1975, Angola never had a functioning infrastructure and is now struggling to claw its way out of corruption. The lack of education and infrastructure means that there are very few corporate musicians here, unlike in South Africa and other countries that have seen success in this field. Still, even in a place like Luanda, where you can be mistaken for an elite and still be on the streets, you can often get the feeling that people think the underground music scene isn’t relevant and even dangerous. I get that, but then again, so did I when I moved to Luanda.

I left Angola with my parents at age 19, a full decade after it gained independence, and moved to Canada. I had gone to secondary school in Luanda, but my English skills were nonexistent, so it was a real struggle trying to keep up and make friends.

At first, I felt like I was in an ostrich or dinosaur mentality: I had been raised by Angolans and had gone to school in Angola. This was a totally foreign land to me. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t know enough English or if I was just naive, but it never crossed my mind that there would be a music scene, or that there was a need to define or even know a scene in Angola. I had gone through a few years of high school and, with the exception of one friend, I was still in total isolation. I found the last few years in Angola to be sort of stressful. I was trapped in a hole of my own making.

Since moving to Canada, I’ve been attempting to re-invent myself in terms of finding my footing in a new country. Angola helped me to grow as an individual, but it was also a somewhat rough start. I was always isolated and misunderstood. Now that I’m older, however, I have a much better perspective. If I was living in Angola and being asked by a teacher or a peer, “Are you going to the big party?” I would’ve said no, but since moving to Canada, I’ve been asked the same question and I’ve been asked “Can I come with you?” or “Do you know who that was?” Now I feel comfortable answering that, “Yeah, the DJ that’s there has a cool name.”

On one hand, Angola has managed to stay in the limelight with all the coverage it receives every time a war breaks out or a new political party comes into power. Even though Luanda is now plagued by domestic crime, which is out of control, it’s still an incredibly cultured and well-polished city.