Embark on a life-changing adventure with the PFC crew, Manu Chao and Mermans Mosengo, while we explore and reconnect with the musical roots of Africa.
DAY 1 - The Arrival
November 21, 2022, Luanda, Angola
“That is the day when the team got together outside the hotel in the morning. The objective of our journey was to record and interview the musicians Dionísio Rocha, Joãozinho Morgado and Raul Tolingas in the ghetto of Marsal.”
- Mark Johnson on the first day of the recording
Rediscovering the Mastermind Behind One Of Our Songs Around The World: “Pemba Laka.”
“Pemba Laka” was first performed in the 1960s as a song for kids. The song was already a huge success when it was released and interpreted by Dionísio Rocha, which gave Mark the idea to create a Song Around The World version in 2015, adding musicians all over the world. When “Pemba Laka” originally reached the radio stations of Angola, the impact was so huge at the time, it eventually reached millions of people across the world. Today, we are proud to say that our version of the song has reached more than six million views!
Regarding the popularity of the song in Angola, Julio César Lobo (artistic coordinator of the Olympic Radio Organization in Colombia) said:
"This classical song was revived with a video featuring a group of musicians from all around the world. It has a Brazilian samba sound and in Barranquilla, music genres are so rich like: Brazilian, Antillean and Cuban, which we are willing to listen to and adapt to our culture. That's why it has been so popular in Latin America."
The beginnings of “Pemba Laka”
During one of the crew’s travels through Spain and while hanging out at a location manager’s flat in Barcelona, Clarence Bekker joined the crew while recording, introducing them to his friend Hugo Soares from Angola. In true PFC spirit, what began as an organic acoustic jam slowly transformed the atmosphere into a truly special experience.
Born in Luanda, Hugo was raised in Brazil and Argentina after his family emigrated because of the war. He then lived in Barcelona since 1993, where he became friends with Clarence. The two of them used to play soul, reggae and African songs together in bars and in the streets of Barcelona.
“Since I left Luanda, I always have memories in my mind and heart. With the passing of time memories became my connection with my culture and roots. “Pemba Laka” was one of the sounds from childhood. I added a few chords to it and people around me were really liking the vibe of the song. One day I played the song to Mark Johnson and today I'm honored to share with the world this great production by Playing For Change.”
Upon arriving at the house of Dionísio, the crew felt immediately welcomed by the hospitality of the family and the closeness of the neighbors. After the session, the crew decided to interview Dionísio about “Pemba Laka” and its origins. Where did “Pemba” come from? What does it mean for the people of Angola? And most importantly, which interpretation is correct?
“We in Africa have a situation. We all depend on the will to break free and for a long time there was an anxiety for freedom” says Dionísio.
This song was kind of a lullaby for him, memories from family stories told in songs by his grandmother after dinner, while sitting around her. Within these stories, one, in particular, caught Dionísio’s attention…
Discover the origins of Pemba Laka in the words of its first interpreter, Dionísio Rocha. Get the full story in this special episode.
Once the team went off scouting again they found a local band named Nguami Maka. A group made up of young people who are convinced to give continuity to the preservation of an Angolan musical segment elevated by groups such as Kituxe and Seu Escompers, which is the prototype of the Marçal boys. Nguami Maka uses traditional African instruments such as the tekanza, a traditional bell and headrums.
Watch this special Live Outside featuring Nguami Maka.
DAY 2 - A Day With Manu At The Office
November 22, 2022.
Once the team finished recording Dionísio, they started to scout different locations around Luanda. Mark’s idea was to come to the people of Luanda and talk to the locals in search of new talent.
When they spotted a restaurant/bar to take a break, the crew was warmly welcomed and the owner offered to take care of their equipment.
“The next thing you know, Manu Chao looked at me and said: Mark, this is our office.”
-Mark on the second day of the Angola journey.
The Beginning Of A Big Happy Family
After the warm welcome to the neighborhood, the PFC crew was suddenly greeted with curious looks of kids wanting to take photos and inviting them to play. “One day you don’t know anyone and the next day you know 50 people, and you’re so connected because of our purpose,” said Mark. “It’s because of our intention to understand who and what these people are, what we believe in and how we can connect deeper with them and then take that soul and that spirit with us around the world.”
This connection between the people of Angola and the familiarity in great part was due to the amazing energy that Manu provided to the team.
“While we were in the neighborhood, Manu was always playing. He was so incredible with his guitar. Every time I would turn around and he would be strumming a song or playing for kids and just creating this amazing energy that all of our production was able to follow,” says Mark regarding his experience.
“This trip to Angola with Manu was amazing. It was traveling with friends but also traveling with a living legend, with a great character. Always positive, always smiling, always happy.”
Uncover the profound story of the third episode of the Producer’s Journey and take a peek at an upcoming production. See the behind-the-scenes of this collaboration and unveil the connection of musical camaraderie and global unity as you witness the powerful fusion of talent, culture, and the shared passion for music that transcends borders.
Among the challenges on this trip, the climate was a great deal. The air was so humid and dense and the sun was really hot that nobody was able to sit around and relax. The equipment was affected as well since the cameras, memory cards and laptops needed to be under an umbrella in order to keep them safe from melting.
After a long day of heat, the next destination was the beach. In this place the crew recorded Joãozinho Morgado, who is called the Conga King and the legend of conga in Angola. As soon as he put the headphones on, he became “the happiest guy in the world” because he was so proud of what he was hearing and how good it sounded.
“Usually when we record someone, people are like: Who are you? What are you doing here? Why are you doing this outside? But then, when we start recording and they put on their headphones, they’re just on fire!”-Mark Johnson about the recording of musicians
The biggest challenge—Mark had to be the director, however, he had a hard time understanding what was going on since he didn’t speak the same language.
DAY 3 - A Very Happy Birthday!
November 23, 2022
Mark’s birthday arrived on day 3. That morning opened up with the kids singing happy birthday to him! He then gave two of the kids PFC guitar picks, which they later turned into necklaces. A nice lady also took the PFC logo and printed it onto a delicious cake she made!
The day’s task was also to record the multi-instrumentalist and dikanza musician Raul Tolingas, so they left at 7:30 in the morning and went back to Marsal.
“Zamba is the same music that they created in Marsal, which in certain people’s perspective became Samba. Some people say that this is the direct lineage of this genre and some might dispute it, but there is no doubt that Samba or Zamba are pretty similar in each way,” said Mark.
Another thing that inspired Mark and his crew was the optimism and spirit of the children, specifically two children. One of them was Daniel, a kid who was bound to win a Nobel Prize someday.
Since it was Mark’s birthday, the group recorded a birthday jam at the beach where Manu and Mermans played some songs and the crew was also able to take some amazing photos!
DAY 4 - See You Later Angola!
November 24, 2022
That day, the crew found another one of the old legendary players named Teddy. He was rehearsing for a big show along with the other musicians, at the same time Manu and the crew were recording a beautiful reggae song. After Teddy watched the beautiful lighting and scenery in which they were recording through social media, Teddy went back and recorded a part of the song, even though he had never heard it before.
After they finished recording Teddy, and moved to another location, the crew found themselves in the village of Kalandula (and while recording Mermans playing the cajon), people started to come out of their huts and dance along!
This journey wouldn’t have been possible without a very important contribution, yours! A big thank you to all of our followers and PFC members who made this journey possible.
Experience the synergy between the crew and the soul of Angola as they delve deeper into the wellspring of inspiration. Join us for the grand finale, as the last exclusive episode of the journey unveils the profound impact of Angola on Mermans' artistic evolution.
Watch the final episode
Check out the full director’s cut, of the Producer’s Journey (specially curated for our members)
See you next time in Brazil!
Explore the diverse musical traditions that have shaped Brazil's rich culture in this first episode available for everyone!
Producer’s Journey: Welcome to Brazil | Playing For Change
In the meantime, check out more content from PFC in Brazil!
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