In the tumultuous 60's and 70's, as independence from colonial rule was gained across Africa, there emerged many expressions of cultural revolution. Leopold Senghor's call to valuing "negritude" reverberated through francophone poetry. Miriam Makeba's voice began to be heard across the world in her unflinching activism and pan-African music. These emergent voices sang African origins in new dialog with the world. In this spirit can be placed the music and poetry of Cobiana Djazz, the first orchestra to re-interpret Bissau-Guinean rhythms in modern arrangements including electric guitar, brass, African percussion, and lyrics sung in Portuguese Kriol. The group began performing publicly in 1970. That year marked nearly a decade of armed struggle against colonial rule, and against that political backdrop, their choice of language was inherently subversive.

The colonial administration did not permit Kriol music in the mass media. Still, some members of Cobiana and a militant journalist called CanCan secretly recorded their music, and one morning they managed to slip it onto the airwaves from the studios of the Provincial Radio. Once transmitted, there was no turning back. The music almost immediately inspired nationalist fervor. So popular was the new Kriol music that deliberate supression would have created tension. That morning broadcast announced new, dignified possibilities for the people of Guinea-Bissau.

Independence was gained in 1973, and around that time another group -called Super Mama Djombo- emerged to sing the victory. This group continued the good work of Cobiana Jazz, helping to re-imagine the language in which they performed, and begin the task of constructing the new nation. Zé Manel Fortes was a founding member of that group.

The albums of Super Mama Djombo were pressed once by the Government of Guinea-Bissau. The now-defunct State label was called "Cobiana." Our "Cobiana Records" aspires to honor the continuation of that spirit in the music of today. Back to About Us...

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