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'Kuduro,' The Dance That Keeps Angola Going

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'Kuduro,' The Dance That Keeps Angola Going

Music Articles

'Kuduro,' The Dance That Keeps Angola Going

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Kuduro is the infectious, pulsating music and dance that moves the southwestern African country of Angola. A group called Os Kuduristas - the kuduro ones - is bringing the sound of their music to clubs and halls across Paris, Amsterdam and recently to New York City and Washington, D.C. But NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas reports their story is complicated.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)


ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Singer MIA has worked with a kuduro-inspired crew.

MIA: (Singing) One, (unintelligible), two, (unintelligible), three, (unintelligible), four. Danza Kuduro knocking at your door...

TSIOULCAS: And reggaeton star Don Omar had an international hit called "Kuduro Danza."


DON OMAR: (Singing in Spanish)

TSIOULCAS: So, what exactly is kuduro? Choreographer Manuel Kanza, who goes by his last name, says it's all about the dance.

MANUEL KANZA: It's inspired by so many things around our environment, our world. Anything can make a kuduro move. For example, we also imitate the movement of animals, the marching of soldiers. Everything can make a movement of kuduro.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Singing in foreign language)

TSIOULCAS: It's also music of the streets that spreads virally, says Marissa Moorman, a professor of African history at Indiana University.

MARISSA MOORMAN: It's everywhere. It's unavoidable. It's played very widely on what are called candongueiros, which are these collective taxis, essentially. It's the most common form of transportation. And so even though the radio station will play some kuduro, most kuduro is produced in studios in the museqs, which are shantytowns. And so most artists will produce and then hand out copies of their CDs to condonguero drivers and get them to play their music in order to popularize it and promote it.

TSIOULCAS: It's party music, the kind you'd find in clubs anywhere in the world. But it has a deeper meaning in Angola, a country still scarred by a 22-year civil war that just ended only a decade ago.

COREON DU: You know, when kuduro started we were a country at war, and our young people, and even our older generation, was trying to make their kids, their children feel comfortable and try to transmit, however possible, a sense of normalcy.

TSIOULCAS: That's a producer and musician who goes by the name of Coreon Du. He put the tour of musicians and dancers together to introduce Kuduro to audiences beyond Angola.

DU: Kuduro was more so a celebration of being alive. Because we did have, you know, our family members were in the army, or, you know, lost a leg in a land mine, but we wanted to focus on the positive.

TSIOULCAS: He might well want to focus on the positive. His real name is Jose Eduardo Paulino Dos Santos. It's one of the most famous last names in Africa. He's the son of Angola's president, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who's been in power for 32 years.

DU: I don't focus on that. And very honestly, that doesn't really have any impact. It seems like I came from a privileged background, but that's not really the case.

TSIOULCAS: He'd like to be known best as a musician and producer. But a lot of what goes on in Angola is a family affair. Coreon Du produces much of the programming that airs on the television channel run by his sister. Another brother runs a $5 billion sovereign wealth fund on behalf of the nation. Angola is the second largest oil producer in Africa, and one of the world's biggest diamond producers. Yet, 80 percent of the residents in the capital, Luanda, live in shantytowns. And most earn less than two dollars a day. Professor Marissa Moorman says that kuduro reflects what Angolans have endured.

MOORMAN: You can't separate its beginnings from politics, from this history of the civil war and the ways in which the violence of that war was played out very particularly on the bodies of young men, right? Young men were recruited both by the state and by the rebel forces to fight in the war. And I think it's a story of triumph over bone-crushing conditions.

KANZA: What we do is trying to have fun out of something that is really serious.

TSIOULCAS: Choreographer Kanza.

KANZA: For example, the time of war, people would imitate the crippled man walking. So, taking that movement of the crippled person into a movement of dance they called it the kamortero(ph). If you translate in English, it's like coming from the dead.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Singing in foreign language)

TSIOULCAS: As the result of the civil war, median age in Angola is now less than 18 years old. And producer Coreon Du says those young people are kuduro's main audience.

DU: Kuduro really is, I would say, the energy of, you know, this specific generation, the generation that was born between I'd say especially between I'd say the mid- to late-'80s and right now. And it's still that sort of really vibrant energy that really reflects the current Angola.

TSIOULCAS: Coreon Du's love for kuduro seems genuine enough, but you can't help but wonder how much of his recent tour helps the government rebrand itself for international consumption and how much of his support for the music helps keep a very young Angola loyal to his father. Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: (Singing in foreign language)

SIMON: You can watch kuduro dancers in action and hear some of their music at This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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