Kuduro: The Sexy Angolan Rhythm With a Message

Whether the word Kuduro comes from the Kimbundu language, native to northern Angola and means “location” or from the Portuguese expression meaning “hard ass” or “stiff bottom” is debated but there’s no argument that the dance is sexy. As one watches the dancers of this Angolan music style jutting their bottoms and swinging sensuously to the rhythm of the hard-hitting Kuduro beat, one can see how the Portuguese translation makes sense. Born in the suburbs of Malange in the 90’s, Kuduro has recently become the darling of some European DJs, and the blog ‘Raízes e Antenas‘ [Roots and Antennas] brings an historical perspective.

Peace in Angola after decades of war — first the war for independence against the Portuguese troops and followed by an equally bloody fratricidal war — has brought forth the development of varied and rich musical forms, and also their discovery by audiences at home and abroad. We are not saying that there was no music being made and recorded before that — check it out the recording in the box , already referenced months ago in this blog, or in the recent compilation, all of them created in the last years of Portuguese domination — or the innumerable recordings from Kizomba artists edited during the civil war. But, in recent years, new genres were born and have grown with unstoppable strength — especially the very Angolan version of the hip-hop, and also the Kuduro and the Tarrachinha.
Tarrachinha – The Sexiest Music in the World (and Other Musics from Angola)
– Raízes e Antenas

Documentário: MÃE JU
“No Dancing da ‘Mãe Ju’ começa-se a dançar às 14h
e só se pára quando nasce o dia”
“In ‘Mãe Ju’s Dancing, we start to dance at 2 pm
and stop when the new day comes”
Documentário Mãe-JuCaboindex

According to some referenced sources, Kuduro’s dance style was inspired by an unlikely character: the Belgian movie actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. In the video below, Tony Amado explains how he was inspired by Van Damme’s funny way of dancing all stiff and with a tight ass in one of his films, and how the first Kuduro song and steps soon emerged while he and his friends laughed at the white man’s dance.


Kuduro was recently portrayed on a Brazilian Sunday night TV show called ‘Central da Periferia’ [Periphery Central], where the reporter Regina Casé searches for marginal cultural movements in the outskirts of the big cities throughout the world. The director Monica Almeida blogs about what she saw at Sambizanga, a poor neighborhood in Luanda and also home of ‘Os Lambas’, the most popular local Kuduro group.

Kuduro is easily comparable to Brazil’s Funk Carioca from Rio de Janeiro. The songs are produced in precarious garage studios in the outskirts of Luanda. Exactly how it happens, for example, in Cidade de Deus (the place of the famous film). It is enough to have a room, even a minimal one, and a computer. The marketing is made in a simple and efficient way: you give a cd to a ‘candongueiro’ — the one who drives the ‘candonga’ vans used for group transportation — and he plays it! If the music is good, it turns into a hit without the need of radio or recording company. That’s how it was with ‘Os Lambas’, the most popular Kuduro group in Angola at this moment.
Só SucessoCentral da Periferia

The analogy with the Funk Carioca also brings forth the idea of a cultural movement that is seen as marginal by the mainstream. The former leader of ‘Os Lambas’ was killed by the police accused of murder, and the video clip above shows that the relationship with ‘the law’ is at best, contentious. But a recent article in a local newspaper linking the Kuduro movement with gangs and violence generated 73 comments, the majority of them rejecting the connection with marginality as a relevant issue.

When the Kudurists started to make those annoying shows, I hated them, but my ‘kota’ used to say: I sense that this movement can be a way of questioning our reality and, for good or bad, it starts to get out of the control of those who only want to hear what they like … and the release of frustrations is being sung because these [new] “recording companies” are not under the control of “bosses” who would only let flourish those who cultivate their personalities. I am against the Kuduro way of life, I am against some of its lyrics, but I don’t go to extremes. Many want to condemn the Kuduro, but they dance the rap with all the nonsense it contains; on the hand, the Semba is not used to make conflict or express frustration, neither kilapanga, or sungura; most of the rap made in Angola is tamed … Kuduro is the release and by virtue of being spontaneous it will have more success because the ghetto sees itself in it. Do you want to see the youth dance in the ghettos? Play on Kuduro!!!!
Comentário de Prenda, in A Relação Entre as Gangs e o KuduroAngonotícias

We just have to get into a ‘candonga’ [van] to listen to these songs from those rascals who use the kuduro to accomplish revenges and foment delinquency. The police should stop the circulation and diffusion of this music that is promoted by the ‘candongueiros’ [van drivers]. The kuduro has already turned into popular music when it is well executed and sung like it is by the little Dog Murras and these other singers of the style should deliver positive and educative messages.
Comentário de Aurora KonaKente, in A Relação Entre as Gangs e o KuduroAngonotícias

The style of a music is the manifestation of the state of a society, and we can’t just condemn it. In the US hiphop denounces racism and intolerance and nobody condemns it. We the Angolans, should value all the gestures generated by our society.
Comentário de Marta (Luanda), in A Relação Entre as Gangs e o KuduroAngonotícias

This rhythm is typical from Angola. In Luanda I risked some steps myself, but not the ones on this video. It’s like the singer says: what African doesn’t dance? what Angolan doesn’t dance? and I complete: and what Afro-descendant doesn’t dance?
KuduroIeda de Oliveira