Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Angola, the country and the jail

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Jah Bouks
Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley

Poet Mutabaruka said "dem invade Angola again", Robert 'Bob' Marley, the father, and Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley, the son, referred to Angola briefly in song, while Jah Bouks made it central to his song which became popular in 2013, but was first recorded seven years earlier.

All were referring to the southern Africa country, a former Portuguese colony which became politically independent in November 1975 after a protracted anti-colonial war against the Portuguese, as well as internecine conflict. Mutabaruka and the elder Marley were talking about racist regimes in Angola at different time periods. Marley's War, the adaptation of Haile Selassie's 1963 speech to the United Nations, was a statement of the inevitability of conflict "... until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed".

After the wave of political Independence in Africa, in his live performances, Marley sang about the regime in South Africa, leaving out Angola, Namibia and Mozambique.

However, that regime in South Africa did not contain its brutality within its borders, conducting raids into Angola to its north, during that country's near threedecade civil war period. It is these invasions by the apartheid government that Mutabaruka used Jamaican popular music in its role as a newspaper - of the oral variety - to speak about, raids which peaked in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1987.

Jr Gong's Angola reference is part of a vision of American prosperity transplanted on Africa in Land of Promise, a combination with rapper Nas, which is a take-off of Dennis Brown's Promised Land. The vision begins, "Imagine Ghana like California weh Sunset Boulevard/Johannesburg would be Miami, Somalia like New York."

Angola would be an air transportation hub, as Marley deejays, "Angola like Atlanta, a pure plane take off."

However, there is another Angola, a name for the Louisiana State Prison in the United States especially notorious for being the site of unjust long-term incarceration for Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace and Robert King, all charged for murder in 1972 and placed in solitary confinement for decades.

Robert was released in 2001 and, 12 years later, Herman, in 2013. Herman died days after his release, while Woodfox remains in solitary confinement after well over 40 years.