Popular Music in a colonial city: musicians’ experiences and socio-racial issues in Lourenço Marques (1960-75)


Lourenço Marques, nowadays known as Maputo, was the main city in Mozambique, a territory which was under Portuguese colonial rule until 1975. As a result of the urban planning promoted by the Portuguese colonial administration, social inequalities of the colonial system were inscribed in the urban geography of Lourenço Marques. There was the city centre, known as the “city of cement”, a place mainly occupied by European white population from the middle/upper classes; outside there was an extended area of neighbourhoods with poor living conditions, mainly inhabited by African population and by a smaller part of low-class Europeans and immigrants. This had an important impact on the social life of the city, reinforcing structural inequalities of the colonial system and promoting dynamics of spatial segregation, racial discrimination and creating more obstacles for those who had precarious positions in the city. In recent years, some studies have been focusing on the relation between cultural expressions and social processes in the urban context of Lourenço Marques – for example, the case of football (Domingos, 2012). Music was an activity with particular relevance in that context, since Lourenço Marques was a city with an intense nightlife activity, in which popular music had a notorious presence. There are already important accounts about music and the colonial context of Mozambique (Freitas, 2018; Lichuge, 2017; Filipe, 2012; Carvalho, 1997). However, the articulation between the activities of popular music groups from different areas of Lourenço Marques and the social dynamics in the city is a topic that still has a lot to explore. Its analysis can demonstrate the ambivalence felt by the individuals involved, but also the way they managed to overcome the constraints of the colonial system. With the main focus on the period between 1960 and 1975, marked by the historical processes of late colonialism (Castelo et al., 2012) this work approaches musical activities as a way to understand social and racial distinctions in a colonial city, based on ethnographic interviews.

Biografia do Autor

Pedro Mendes, INET-md | NOVA FCSH

Pedro Mendes (INET-md, NOVAFCSH) is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology. He was a member of the project “Jazz in Portugal: the legacies of Luís Villas-Boas and the Hot Clube de Portugal”. Currently, he is making research about popular music groups in late colonial Lourenço Marques, participating in the project “Timbila, Makwayela and Marrabenta: one century of musical representation of Mozambique”.


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Fu, Domingos and Silva, Carlos Alberto. 2018. Interview by Pedro Mendes. Figueira da Foz, May 2.
Le Bon, Aurélio. 2018. Interview by Pedro Mendes. Maputo, August 14.
Libombo, Joel. 2018. Interview by Pedro Mendes. Maputo, August 22
Magaia, Inácio. 2018. Interview by Pedro Mendes. Videoconference, October 9
Muge, José. 2017. Interview by Pedro Mendes. Ovar, July 27.
Silva, Carlos Alberto. 2018. Interview by Pedro Mendes. Almada. April 18