When I first heard Waldemar Bastos on a compilation called Adventures in Afropea 3: Telling Stories to the Sea, released by David Byrne's Luaka Bop label years ago, I was completely taken by his mellifluous baritone and the sweet, gentle power of his music.
Back in 1999, as the newly appointed Hollywood Bowl Program Director of World Music, I programmed a Lusophone night featuring the music of Cape Verde (Fantcha), Angola (Waldemar Bastos), and Brazil (Gilberto Gil). There were few in the audience that knew beforehand of Bastos, but with the soulful power of his heartfelt sound, he captivated the entire audience, leaving tears in his wake.
Bastos' life has not been an easy one. Forced to flee the civil war that erupted in Angola post-independence from Portugal in 1975, he eventually defected and moved to Lisbon in 1982. Having borne witness to the Angolan plight during his country's struggle for independence, Bastos was himself, at one time, unjustly imprisoned and later suffered the loss of a beloved son. Estranged from his homeland and even his family for many years, he sought refuge in Lisbon, Germany, and Brazil before the war in Angola finally came to an end in 2003.
Yet despite these hardships, hope and love have helped him to overcome any bitterness for the slings and arrows that fate threw his way. He describes his music as being defined by "[my] own life experiences, praise for Angolan identity, and a call for universal brotherhood"—all of which he so genuinely expresses through the warmth and optimism of his sumptuous sound.
Bastos's most recent release, Classics of My Soul, is moving testimony of his artistic ability and emotive power to transcend language barriers and capture hearts around the world. This stunning album was recorded and produced by musical shaman, Derek Nakamoto, in a converted studio/garage right here in Mar Vista! Funded by a Kickstarter campaign started by his fans, Bastos raised enough capital to record three songs with the redoubtable London Symphony Orchestra.
I am absolutely thrilled about Waldemar Bastos's upcoming performance here in LA on Saturday, January 31, at the Japanese American Community Cultural Center's (JACCC) Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo. Curated and produced by Judy Mitoma, former head of the UCLA Dance and World Music Departments and the World Festival of Sacred Music, Bastos' show is one of an eight-concert Aratani World Series, celebrating music and dance from Indonesia, Angola, Portugal, Japan, Mexico, India, Iran, Philippines, Bulgaria, and Brazil. For more information, click here.
Big thanks to Daphne Bach, who videotaped my interview (below) with Waldemar Bastos at the KCRW studios, and to our interpreter, Peter Lownds.