11 September 2007

As Músicas de Angola

I'm still trying to get a handle on the Angolan music scene and figure out what's from where, what's influenced by what, and who's who. Somewhat surprisingly the good ol' interweb and especially YouTube and Wikipedia have been tremendously helpful in getting the lay of the land. (The amount of information about Angola as well as the Angolan presence online is currently exploding -- more on this in other posts.) The best known and clearest thread in Angolan music runs from Semba to Kizomba to Kuduro, with Kuduro being the most recent incarnation. Here's where I'm at so far in figuring this all out.

Semba is commonly considered to be descendant from a Congo-Angolan dance style and has etymological roots in both Kimbundo ("pleasing, enchanting") and Kikongo ("honoring, revering"). It's highly prevalent in Angolan popular music and when spending time in Luanda folks frequently point out which songs on the radio are semba and Angolan. I've even had people clap for me the rhythm that they recognize as semba but I'll confess to not always being able to distinguish it in course of songs.

Kizomba music is generally slower than semba and also very romantic or sensual with the dance having a reputation as being quite technical. Kizomba is rooted in semba but also takes influence from Caribbean musics, specifically zouk. We've got a disc purchased on our last trip to Luanda called "Kizomba de Angola, disc 2" that's been in heavy rotation in the car this week (Big D loves it) with a nice melody turn on the lyric "Kuduro não da" (Kuduro won't do) about how semba's all right, kuduro is questionable, but kizomba -- kizomba is the way to be.

Kuduro, an aggressive rap music developed in Malange and highly influenced by Haitian rap, is the most recent pop music development. It's a relentless music with an unchanging beat and a rapid-fire lyric style. The music is somewhat grating for me but I've been listening to a fair bit of it to get to know it better. There are a fair number of YouTube videos featuring kuduro and they're my favorites because they frequently feature bairros (neighborhoods) and musseques (slums) that you don't see in the other videos and that are difficult for "tourists" to take pictures of because of concerns about the police and camera use. These videos best represent the neighborhood style in bairro popular where we stayed in 2005 with Arthur and where we've been on the streets outside of the main urban center.

I'm very much enjoying Angolan music right now. We bought 10-15 CDs on our last trip getting a variety of styles and artists. We met Alberto Teta Lando, the president of União Nacional dos Artistas e Compositores (UNAC), and he gave us a slew of recommendations as did Dª Alice and Paolo. For me the stylistic approach of Angolan music is still more recognizable than the rhythms. There's a vaguely "African" feel to the music but it's much less ornate than the prototypical West African musics. In addition to the beautiful simplicity, much of it is in minor modes and has a somewhat down atmosphere (even the quicker songs) which I really enjoy. I hear it as a somewhat serious music regardless of the lyric topic, and as mature and down to earth. Waldemar Bastos's Pretaluz was the first full album I heard by an Angolan artist and it represents well some of the things I hear (or at least it's colored my ears so much that you should check it out to know why I can't hear anything differently).

YouTube examples



  • Amazing kuduro dancing examples here and here

Best links for general listening:


Nathan Holland said...

wow, it's cool to find your blog, I dont recall how i happened across it but I find this entry quite interesting. I myself am trying to get a grasp on the Angolan music scene and understand the different genres. Are you in Angola now? I'll be moving there in 2009, not sure where yet though.

matthew_pw said...

Hi! I'm headed there in 1 month. I'll be there for a year -- mostly in Luanda. I'm hoping to live in Kilamba Kiaxi, but we'll see how it goes. -m

F. Moehn said...
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