Pursuing our work with our friend DJ Tom B, we’re proud of sharing the fourth effort on our São Tomé & Principe series : “Recordar é viver”, the first volume of an anthology dedicated to the one and only Pedro Lima, , « A voz do povo de São Tomé » (the people’s voice of Sao Tomé).
“Recordar é viver: Antologia Vol. 1” features some previously unreleased tracks and gives a comprehensive look into the discography of one of the islands’ biggest stars, known for his political outspokenness as much as for his soft voice, delicate rumbas, and high-energy puxas.
The story of Pedro Lima begins in Almas, a coastal town with a lively music scene a few kilometres away from the capital Sao Tomé, where he founded Os Leonenses with his friend Leopoldino « Gundu” Silva. The band’s earlier music is built around the strong rhythms and infectious energy of Sao-Toméan Samba Socopé (« only with the feet” in Portuguese), but with the influence of Congolese soukous, Cape Verdean Coladeira, elements from French West-Indies Cadence/Compas, and Brazilian Afoxé, it soon developed into the infectiously danceable style known as “puxa”. The band kept playing together up until Pedro’s death in 2019, performing at large events around the islands and on the continent.
But Pedro shined also on his own. After travelling to Angola to record several records with the band, Pedro travelled to Gabon in 1981 to record his first album under his own name Kafou-Kafou, released by the tiny early 80’s Afro-funk and Soukouss label called Tchi-Tchi. Backed by his faithful Os Leonenses, Pedro demonstrated his compositional skills and ability to balance the band’s powerful rhythm section with São Tomé & Principe’s harmonic backing vocal traditions, creating strong, dance floor ready puxas or melodic, delicate rumbas. One of the songs from this album to feature on the compilation is Subocha, a beautiful ode to president President Manuel Pinto da Costa, a lifelong friend of Pedro’s.
Pedro was always a faithful supporter of the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP), the revolutionary party that took power after independence from the Portuguese in 1975. Headed by Pinto da Costa, the MLSTP initially led Sao Tomé and Principe through a period of growth and development, especially in the Education field, with figures reaching among the higher African literacy rates. But in the early 1980s the party was marred by fighting and corruption scandals, and falling cocoa (the island’s main export) prices caused a deep economic crisis. Pedro’s support for Pinto da Costa and the MLSTP wasn’t blind, and he frequently expressed the concerns of fellow islanders, even at the risk of angering the ruling party. Known as a « Musico de intervenção » (socially and politically engaged musician), he recorded several songs that were censored by political authorities.
Pedro Lima died in 2019, leaving behind the 23 children he fathered, with thousands of mourners accompanying him to his final resting place. The public funeral, paid for by ex-president Pinto da Costa, was one of the biggest the islands have ever seen. Lima, « O cantor do povo” (“The people’s singer”), was buried with his wireless microphone, so his powerful voice would always be heard.