Pongo shares single ‘Canto’, ahead of new EP ‘Uwa’ arriving Feb 7

“An aural Vitamin D shot”Guardian

Blending her penchant for dancehall and Kuduro she’s proving herself as one of the most inventive and exciting performers around right now.” – NME

“An eclectic mix of sounds and genres that defies classification.” – The Line of Best Fit

“Multi-disciplined artist Pongo has a rich cocktail of musical cultures behind her” – Complex 

“Her invitation to the dance floor is easy to accept” – Pitchfork

Angolan-Portuguese singer & rapper Pongo shares new single ‘Canto’, ahead of her upcoming EP ‘Uwa’, out on February 7 via Caroline International. Recently featured in the NME’s 100 Essential New Artists For 2020, ‘Canto’ follows lead-off single ‘Quem Manda No Mic’ (supported by BBC 1Xtra and added straight to the B-List at 6Music) and has already received praise from the likes of NYLON and i-D.

‘Uwa’ – meaning ‘step’ in her Angolan language of Kimbundo – follows Pongo’s 6Music-supported debut EP ‘Baia’ – which has since been streamed over 6 million times and counting, also spawning remixes from 20syl and Anoraak (issued via Kitsuné). The latest EP offering from Pongo marks the first inclusion of English – she herself is fluent in both Portuguese and Kimbundo – although ‘Canto’ is jubilantly delivered in Portunol, a blend of Portuguese and Spanish. The track is a celebration of her oftentimes turbulent journey into music, translating simply to ‘I Sing’. Speaking about the track, Pongo says; “This song describes the happiness I feel while making music. I’m trying to use latin rhythms and their particular ambience. I love mixing and discovering.”

Accompanying her sandy vocals is a striking visual from Parisian director Felix Dol Maillot, where Pongo performs in the surf and above the rooftops of Senegal’s coastline. Filmed over the course of a single 16 hour day-to-night shoot – Dol Maillot says; “‘Canto’ is a track without boundaries. Across the track Pongo sings & raps seamlessly in different languages, telling us that music is everything in her life. I felt it was interesting to shoot in locations which aren’t easy to place geographically, with just Pongo front & centre, singing and dancing. The power of this song made me feel it would be interesting to have lots of low angle shots with just Pongo against the sky alongside some overhead shots to give an aerial look. That’s how the idea of the mirrored staircases came up. I wanted Pongo to be performing on top of something strong visually, but something that could also blend into different locations and absorb the atmosphere around her.” You can watch the new video below.

Originally hailing from Angola’s capital city of Luanda, as a kid Pongo was forced to flee to Europe with her family to escape its lengthy, harrowing civil war. Eventually settling in Portugal in a city just north of Lisbon with a very small African-immigrant population, a young Pongo experienced prolonged racist abuse whilst completing her schooling in the area. Already seeking solace from a disturbing present tense by retreating into the music, dance & slang words of her former life in Luanda, Pongo’s route to becoming one of Kuduro’s fast-rising young stars was completed by the closest of near misses. Falling several storeys out of a window as the result of a prank gone horribly wrong – “I was always doing some kind of stupid acrobatics” – and somehow escaping with only a badly broken ankle, Pongo was forced to catch a train each week to meet with a physiotherapist for treatment. Stopping every week at the city’s Quelez Station, Pongo came into the orbit of the Denon Squad, a group of boys practising kuduro dance on the streets of one of Lisbon’s largest African communities. Soon rapping over their routines – in defiance of her father, himself a kuduro dancer back in Angola – a tape of Pongo’s recordings made its way into the hands of Lisbon-based club night turned kuduro collective Buraka Som Sistema. Pongo (taking her artist name in tribute to feminist Congolese singer, M’Pongo Love) then went on to make her debut on their ‘Black Diamond’ album, alongside the likes of M.I.A. and Kano. 

With Pongo now choosing to live in Lisbon’s Quelez neighbourhood, and still sporting the large scar across her calf which remains from her death-defying accident, you sense it’s more than just coincidental that the kuduro movement took its name from an Angolan slang word meaning ‘hard-ass’.

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