Friday, April 13, 2012


While there are several types of music that are popular in Angola, three main types come up: semba, kizomba, and kuduro. In many of these styles, the dance and the music are one and the same.

Semba is a traditional style of music that actually has led to other types, including the famous samba style of Brazil, as well as the other two popular Angolan styles, kizomba, and kuduro. Its origin is from the word “masemba” which means “touch of the bellies,” referring to moves in semba dancing.  The rhythms are led many times by guitars, rather than drums alone. Although there is a variety of percussion that is still used, mind you.  African music without drumming is like college without drinking (as in, it can be done, but why would you want to?). One really famous semba musician is Bonga. Because of his political view of Angolan independence, he was exiled from Angola during the early 1970s. He ended up fleeing to Europe and traveled between several different countries, yet kept up his music and recordings. His album Angola 72/74 is a great collection, which includes the song “Sodade” that was later made famous by one of my favorite musicians Cesária Évora (who I could’ve sworn was from Angola all these years and was really excited to show her music, but then I found out she was really from Cape Verde. So you’ll all have to wait until next year or so). I found it on iTunes for $19.80, although you can buy them separate (Angola 72 or Angola 74) for $9.90 apiece.

Kizomba is a blend of semba and zouk, a music style that originally came from the French Caribbean. Kizomba itself seems to be popular mainly in the lusosphere (a fancy word for all the Portuguese-speaking countries) and mainly in the larger cities, such as Lisbon or Luanda.

The last one, kuduro, is something I knew of before I got to Angola but didn’t know it originated from Angola. And since I’m a huge fan of various degrees of separation of everything, here how it goes: we got the movie “Fast Five” for Christmas because it was set in Brazil, and I went there several years ago, and it had awesome cars in it (not to mention Vin Diesel), and one of the actors/musicians featured was Don Omar who had sung the song “Danza Kuduro” that was also sung with Lucenzo, a Portuguese musician (which was on the soundtrack and happened to be my ringtone until I got an iPhone today and can’t figure out how to change my ringtones to something I want). So, that brings us back to kuduro. Kuduro itself takes traditional semba and kizomba, speeds it up and puts a house/techno/electronica beat underneath it.  One popular kuduro band is Buraka Som Sistema (which are actually from Portugal), and I just downloaded their album “Black Diamond” this morning. Very good album, complex with variety. I got the deluxe album (with the remixes) off of iTunes for $10.99, but the regular album version is available for $5.99.

Kuduro dancing is a wild, athletic dance style that goes hand-in-hand with kuduro music. It’s reminiscent of the styles of pop and lock, capoeira, and breakdancing. (Although, breakdancing does have its origins in Brazilian capoeira.) It’s really something to watch. My daughter was imitating what we were watching, and I realized that I really find her some dance lessons. I would’ve put up a video, but every time that I actually looked at her, she got embarrassed and stopped. Le sigh. Anyways, this video by Buraka Som Sistema not only highlights kuduro music but also has a lot of dancing.

Up next: THE FOOD!!

Wikipedia: “Music of Angola” “Semba” “Kizomba” “Kuduro” “Bonga” “Breakdancing” 

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