Lakou Choukoun honors Rada and Kongo/Wangòl traditions
This song laments the death of the first King of Angola and the subsequent collapse of the Kingdom of Angola to Portuguese rule. The kingdom got its name from its founder Ngola Kiluanje. The name Ngola is variably pronounced as Ngol or Ngolo and was the title and family name used by all the subsequent Kings of Angola.Knowing this, Angolan descendants in Haiti, juxtapose the Creole word for king alongside the name of King Ngola Kiluanje to produce the words Wa+Ngol and Wa+Ngolo. Today in Haiti, King Angola Kiluanje is known as Lwa Wangol or Lwa Wangolo.Since the territory that he controlled also bore the name of the king, the kingdom of Angola is called either Wangòl or Wangolo as well. The song is at once about the King and about his Kingdom, Angola.
During King Ngola Kiluanje’s tenure (1512-1556), he expanded the small Ndongo Kingdom to 50,000 square miles, a territory about twice the size of the island of Haiti. Ngola Kiluanje was popular among his subjects and was nicknamed Ngola Inene meaning the Great King. In 1575, after the death of his grandson in office, the disputed King Njinga Ngola Kilombo Kia Kasenda took power (1575-1592). Lacking legitimacy, in order to remain in office, this king was ruthless. His opponents formed various alliances, including some with the Portuguese to secure weapons to oust him. The political instability gave the Portuguese an inroad into affairs of the Kingdom and the Portuguese joined and instigated countless wars in Angola. By 1589, more than 50% of the kingdom was under Portuguese control.This gave the Portuguese a secure position from which to purchase and to capture prisoners of war to export as slaves to the Americas. Nearly one hundred years later, the whole of Angola collapsed and became a Portuguese colony.Angola was the first African Kingdom to become a European colony. Much of the rest of Africa did not fall under European control until 1881-1914 when the introduction of the machine gun among other industrial advances gave Europeans a clear military advantage without much need for local alliances. It is the much earlier collapse of Angola that is referred to in the song as “peyi a chanje”, the country has changed. Indeed the country changed and Angola remained under Portuguese rule for many centuries until 1975.
During the turbulent years that followed the death of King Kiluanje, the descendants of the people of Angola remembered how much better life was under their Great king and they yearned for his return. They did this knowing that they were hoping against hope. The unacceptable truth was that he had died and would not return. This is why the song ends with the regrettable w ale, meaning you’re gone. The statement “w ale” is well chosen because the a in the sentence can be stretched to give the statement a slightly different meaning. In Creole, the pronunciation of w ale can be indistinguishable from “wa a ale”, meaning the king is gone. Nonetheless, w ale is the preferred pronunciation because the w is short for the word you, referring both to the country and to the King of Angola because historically, both were called Angola (Wangolo).
Today the people of Haiti and of Angola share a common respect for King Ngola Kiluanje.For Haitians, that respect remains even after having been displaced across the Atlantic, and even after more than four centuries have passed since the king’s death in 1556. Like the country of Angola, we continue to pay tribute to the memory of our dear King Ngola Kiluanje the Great, now honored in Haiti as Lwa Wangòl.