Music Music and Lusophone Africa
Abigail Rehard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0310


The Portuguese-speaking African countries, otherwise known as Lusophone Africa, are geographically scattered across the continent. Angola, Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, and, since 2011, Equatorial Guinea recognize Portuguese as an official language. As former Portuguese colonies, the original five Lusophone African countries formed the transnational organization PALOP (Portuguese: Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa) in 1992. Equatorial Guinea, a Portuguese colony before it was claimed by Spain, was not traditionally considered part of the PALOP, though it recently adopted Portuguese as the country’s third official language. (With that being said, music scholarship on Lusophone connections in Equatorial Guinea is lacking and therefore not included in this article). The Portuguese colonial empire had varying effects on these African states even after they gained independence in the 1970s, and that legacy stretches into postcolonial discourse today in Lusophone Africa. The concept of Lusofonia, or Lusophony, is intrinsically tied to colonialism. Language can be understood as the last territory of the Portuguese Empire, perpetuating cultural imperialism and mental colonialism in this imagined transnational community. Lusophone Africa extends across vast continental territories of diverse African ethnic groups with varying histories of Portuguese presence. Each country embodies a diverse, multicultural milieu, but each shares a common language regardless of its status—mother tongue, official language, creole-based language. They share an identity based on the linguistic and cultural practices imposed by their Portuguese colonizers and further transformed to serve the needs of their local cultures. Their recognition of Lusofonia joins these countries in solidarity. The majority of scholarship on music of Lusophone Africa centers on Angola and Cabo Verde, though geographical borders become blurry with the volume of cultural exchange occurring between these countries. Musical practices flow freely through these political boundaries, and there has historically been a profuse amount of migration, both voluntary and involuntary, between the Portuguese-speaking countries and throughout the world. Lusophone African musicians have created unique expressions from their interactions with various cultural influences, and many speak to the civil unrest, political violence, and economic instabilities of their countries. The sources in this bibliography highlight themes of national identity, creolization, resistance, transnational flows, colonial and postcolonial relations, and globalization in the music of Lusophone Africa, and a majority of the scholarship is published in the 21st century, hopefully indicating a surge of interest in these areas and more research to emerge in the coming years.

General Overviews

These sources provide broader perspectives on the imagined Lusophone community across Africa. Though the author primarily focuses on music of Cabo Verde, Alves 2018 speaks to the plurality of sounds—both linguistic and musical—in Lusophone areas, while looking for ways of talking about Lusophony that counter its inherent inequalities of representation and distribution. Brito 2006 presents a more expansive sampling of Lusophone music to promote this connection between Portugal and Portuguese-speaking African countries, giving an overview of Portugal’s historical and contemporary involvement in these regions. Arenas 2011 presents a rich discussion of often neglected Luso-African film directors who use film and their soundtracks to comment on extensive political, socioeconomic, and cultural issues within their respective countries. McMahon 2014 and de Barros and Lima 2013 critically examine issues surrounding transnational community-building among Lusophone countries. McMahon 2014 focuses on theater productions in Brazil, Cape Verde, and Mozambique and questions the neocolonialism of Lusofonia, whereas de Barros and Lima 2013 highlights the legacy of Cabral’s Pan-Africanist discourse through Guinean and Cabo Verdean rap.

  • Alves, Teresa Costa. “Musicality of Portuguese: Introduction to a Sonority and Phonetic Acoustic in the Lusophone World.” Revista Lusófona de Estudos Culturais 5.1 (2018): 191–208.

    In her exploration of the plurality of sounds within Lusophone space, Alves reflects on the sonic possibilities of the Portuguese language and music to create an acoustic mediascape that distinguishes the Portuguese-speaking world. She discusses musical genres related specifically to Cabo Verde while arguing for a concept of Lusophony as a rhizome that counters debates of inequalities in the distribution and representation of the Lusophone space.

  • Arenas, Fernando. “Lusophone Africa on Screen: After Utopia and before the End of Hope.” In Lusophone Africa: Beyond Independence. By Fernando Arenas, 103–158. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816669837.001.0001

    This substantial chapter reviews films produced in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola and Cabo Verde since the late 1980s, focusing on specific directors and films that intervene in historical, political, socioeconomic, and cultural aspects of recently formed nation-states. Aside from highlighting significant contributions from Lusophone African film directors, such as Flora Gomes and Licínio Azevedo, within early African cinema, Arenas also discusses the use of music and sound within films. Includes photos.

  • Brito, Rui. Lusofonia: A (R)evolução. Lisbon, Portugal: Red Bull Music Academy, 2006.

    This documentary traces the development of Lusophone music to promote the concept of fusion between Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking African countries. It contains thirty-five interviews and thirty-three music videos that comment on the period of Portuguese colonization starting in the 15th century and including the revolutions of the 1970s, Portugal’s opening to the wider international community during the 1980s, the growing importance of Lusofonia in the 1990s, and the emergence of multiculturalism in the 21st century.

  • de Barros, Miguel, and Redy Wilson Lima. “The Pan-Africanism of Cabral in the Music of the Youth.” In Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral. Edited by Firoze Manji and Bill Fletcher Jr., 387–404. Dakar, Senegal: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), 2013.

    This chapter examines how Guinean and Cabo Verdean youth offer a renewed context for the Pan-Africanist and nationalist discourse of Amílcar Cabral through rap music from the 1990s to the present. The authors analyze documents and speeches of Cabral, narratives of rap music adopted by Guinean and Cabo Verdean youth, participant observation in concerts and recording studio, and informal conversation with rappers.

  • McMahon, Christina S. Recasting Transnationalism through Performance: Theatre Festivals in Cape Verde, Mozambique, and Brazil. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137006813

    This book offers an interdisciplinary study of theater festivals hosted in Portuguese-speaking cities. Exploring Lusophone creative expression through a comparative lens, McMahon views these performance arenas as sites that question neocolonial visions of Lusofonia and promote transnational community-building. Her work is based on participant-observation fieldwork at multiple sites, archival research, and interviews, and it contains critical analyses of women’s labor and sexuality and the geopolitics of cultural production.

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