Many people both inside the music world as well as laymen alike have probably never heard of Sam Mangwana. Since the early 1970’s, Sam has helped create new musical forms such as the Congolese rumba and other fusions of African, Latin, Brazilian, and Caribbean music. He is a curious and restless spirit who has lived in many African countries and tours extensively throughout the world. Sam’s music is gentle, yet filled with passion. He captures the essence of universal melody.

On "Gala Negro" Sam gives us a beautifully crafted, sweet and lyrical mix of international music styles including the Portuguese-African melodies of Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and Guinea Bissou, the rhythms of his native Congo, Latin rumba, Antillcan K-dance, Spanish-Cuban decima, with hints of Portuguese and Vallenato (Venezuela and Columbia) accordion. The sensuous syncopated guitar son of Oriente, Cuba (literally the country blues of Cuba) has a deep effect on the music of Africa.

Sam gives us ballads, falsetto laments in the wailing tchou style of Cape Verde, kizomba and quilipinga (Angolan carnival and merenque music) along with the marabenta of Mozambique and the morna and semba of Cape Verde.

The tracks are sung mostly in Portuguese and Lingala (a Congolese language). Sam uses his tenor voice in perfect harmony with a breathtaking female chorus, and the brilliant guitar of Congolese legend Papa Noel.

On the namesake of the CD, "Galo Negro," Sam sets the pace early for what I consider a brilliant group of songs. Even though I don’t understand Portuguese, I understand rhythm and I feel like the accordion, expertly played by Regis Gizana, is speaking directly to me. The percussion section consisting of Roger Raspail, Xavier Desander, and in many cases Sam Mangwana himself, is first rate. "Maloba" is a song the carries a musical message of tremendous impact. Maloba translates into "the word." The melody created by the percussion section as well as the accordion transcends all language barriers. The background vocals add such a dimension to the song as if supporting Sam in a lyrical cushion. This song sincerely moved me. In "Caro Mabanzo" the rhythm, once again, gives you an idea of what this song is all about (in case Lingala is not your language du joir, this song is about a man that is heart broken because his love has left him, the poor man pleads her to come back - even if it’s only in his dreams).

This is a first rate CD that will fill your musical space with rhythm and harmony. Language is not a problem, the music carries such a hefty punch that sooner than later, you will find yourself singing along with Sam in Lingala or Portuguese carried by a beat that will touch your soul.

- Heri Martinez

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