Kuduro is an electronic music and dance culture from Angola. Kuduro is THE youth culture of Angola today. Frenetically driving beats, expressive dance moves, and flamboyant stylings are its basic pillars.
Contemporary Angola emerged from Bantu kingdoms such as the vast Kingdom of Kongo, whose highly populated capital, Mbanza Kongo, already had brick houses and an impressive king's palace when the Portuguese crown arrived in the 16th century. After centuries of cruel Portuguese and Dutch colonial rule and 13 years of anti-colonialist war, Angola became a sovereign state in 1975. A civil war between rivaling liberation movements ensued and in 2002 Angola finally saw peace.
Due to the civil war many Angolans were scattered throughout the country or went to study or work in Portugal, South Africa, Russia, United Kindgom, Brazil, Cuba, the U.S., Namibia, and other countries. This strong diasporic network facilitated the arrival of global popular culture in Angola. VHS tapes with Michael Jackson videos landed in the hands of eager Angolan dancers who integrated Jacko's moves into their repertoire. Angolans from the war-ridden provinces flocked into the capital, Luanda, which became a megacity with a blossoming cultural life in its informal neighborhoods, the musseques. While local languages and traditional customs from the provinces shifted into the background, Luanda's youth adopted a cosmopolitan, urban lifestyle.
Kuduro emerged in the early 1990s in the capital's nightclubs where DJs played electronic music and dancers showed off their expressive moves. In 1996 dancer and party MC Tony Amado launched his song “Amba Kuduro” (“Dance the Hard Ass”) with the accompanying dance steps. The song’s catchy name came to describe the whole new genre. Since then, kuduro has become the most popular genre of youth culture in Angola and its diaspora.
An Angolan dictum says "There is no party without kuduro." And indeed, when the DJ drops kuduro at a wedding, a school party, or a yard party, Angolans of from all walks of life and of all generations get down on the dance floor.
Speaking of generations, kuduristas often refer to three generations in the history of the genre. Bruno de Castro, Tony Amado, Sebem, and Virgilio Fire are considered key actors of the first generation for blazing the trail of the genre. A slew of second-generation artists such as Fofandó, Noite Dia, Gata Agressiva, Puto Prata, Dog Murras, Os Lambas, Bruno M, Puto Lilas, Própria Lixa, and Nacobeta established the new genre as a serious business. The third-generation artists, such as Titica and Cabo Snoop are currently enjoying international stardom. Young singers, dancers, and producers are working hard on honing their skills and straining at the leash to present their talent to the world.
In small home studios all over the capital and the provinces, at dance battles, sports grounds, dance rehearsals in yards, neighborhood shows, and glamorous galas, kuduro is everywhere. During the Angolan War of Independence semba music played a key role in producing the Angolan national identity called angolanidade. Kuduro took over from semba and living it today is what produces that certain feeling of being Angolan.
Stefanie Ulisch is a DJ and musicologist from Berlin, working on her PhD on Kuduro.