Since achieving independence from Portugal in 1974, the small west African nation of Guinea-Bissau hasn't been much in the news until recently, when a series of political upheavals, fueled in part by drug trafficking, has brought it to the world's attention.
Bissau's music is also little-known, but Super Mama Djombo and Kaba Mane have achieved some recognition outside the country. Another prolific Bissau artist is Ramiro Gómes Días, better known as Ramiro Naka, or sometimes Naka Ramiro. He was born in 1955 and formed his first band, N'kassa Cobra, sometime around Independence. His disagreements with Bissau's new rulers led him to relocate to Lisbon in 1976, and later to Paris, where he established the Orchestre de Guinea-Bissau, which achieved some distinction in the lively African music scene as the foremost purveyor of Bissau's indigenous Goumbé style.
A series of excellent, if not always well-known recordings has followed, and Naka has also established himself as an actor in the nascent Guinea-Bissau film industry. I hope you will enjoy these selections from his early recording career, all released in the 1980s.
In "Ou Moundou Balas," from his album Je Viens d'Ailleurs (Rá Dya Music DYA 81055, 1983), Ramiro Naka sings in Mandjacque, "The world of singers is considered to be a crazy world. But in my eyes this world is more important than being a king. I will sing about it to the new world":
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - Ou Moundou Balas
"Fanta Mané," also from Je Viens d'Ailleurs, is in the Portuguese-based Crioulo language of Guinea-Bissau and the Casamance region of Senegal. It is about a boy who traveled to the town of Farim to meet the beautiful Fanta Mané. In this way he discovered the happiest city in Guinea-Bissau:
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - Fanta Mané
"Meu Trabalho," from Bikelia Ma Fiancée (Ramiro Naka RA 81065) expresses Naka's philosophy of life: "I prefer to entertain you so that you can forget life's chimeras. It's impossible to do both at the same time. Earning money is nice, but it is still necessary to do what one wants":
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - Meu Trabalho
Also from Bikelia Ma Fiancée. "I never get tired of talking to you about Guinea-Bissau. She is found at the end of the world in a small corner, but she exists all the same":
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - M'bin de Lundju
The title track of Bikelia. "You arrived with only one glance and only one smile. You changed my life. For freedom let us remain good friends in happiness and keep trouble far from our marriage":
Ramiro Naka & l'Orchestre de la Guinee-Bissau - Bikelia Kelly
Na Bolon (N'kassa Cobra NK 04880) finds Ramiro Naka reuniting with his old band N'kassa Cobra (who also did at least one recording on their own, 1995's Lundju), and hewing closer to the "mainstream" African sound. Unfortunately, summaries of the lyrics aren't available:
Ramiro Naka & N'kassa Cobra - Na Bolon
Ramiro Naka & N'kassa Cobra - Kara Bacile
Ramiro Naka & N'kassa Cobra - Nha Indimigo
Many thanks to my daughter Aku for translating the liner notes from Je Viens d'Ailleurs and Bikelia Ma Fiancée.