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Kuduro: "Hard Ass" Beats From Angola

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By Sofia Verzbolovskis

Forget Baile Funk. Make way for Angola's pulse-pounding Kuduro music. Spurring a new ghetto-born movement, Kuduro, or "hard-ass" in Portuguese, is set to take over nightclubs across the globe, with groups like Buraka Som Sistema inciting an unforgettable dance revolution. Fusing traditional African rhythms with techno, zouk, ragga, and soca, Kuduro is transcending cultural boundaries and merging sounds that one would otherwise imagine uncanny.

Kuduro's roots can be traced back to Luanda in the late 1980's, when a new generation of Angolan musicians started to look for new rhythms to mix up with their own. Influenced by American and European electronic music, they started to imitate basic techno beats. Producers would then combine these beats with heavy African percussion, resulting in what they used to call "Batida." But it wasn't until the late 90's when DJ's started toasting over these beats that the new genre exploded.

Take a look at Jean-Claude Van Damme's dance moves in the 1989 film, Kickboxer. As far-fetched as this may sound, Tony Amado, one of the founders of Kuduro music, admits that it was Van Damme's quirky moves that instigated this genre. With its hard edge dance style, rough break beats, pungent bass lines, and heavy percussion, it has gathered a grassroots fan base throughout Europe, particularly Portugal, which has a dense population of Angolan immigrants.

Brazil has Baile Funk. South Africa has Kwaido. Latin America and the Caribbean Islands have Reggaeton. Now, Angola has Kuduro. And indeed, Kuduro is following the steps of these genres, as it is a social movement created by the poor and rapidly gaining massive popularity. Like Hip-hop, most of Kuduro's lyrics contain social and political critiques, manifesting the state of the society. For instance, Buraka Som Sistema's last album title, Black Diamond, makes reference to the enduring corruption in the oil and diamond industry. Though the honest, violent lyrics have not gained much airplay in Angolan radio stations, they have certainly opened a means for self-expression and cultural dialogue amongst the young African generation. Hopefully, denouncing racism, intolerance, and injustice will not be a reason to condemn Kuduro.

For now, these adrenaline-soaring beats remain an integral part of street life in Angola. As DJ's across nightclubs pick up this exotic sound, Kuduro's popularity will continue to rise and avid kuduristas such as Puto Prata, MC Kalaf, DJ Znobia, and Frederic Galliano will find new territories to expand beyond Africa and Portugal. Even non- kuduristas are incorporating these sounds into their music. One of M.I.A's producers, Diplo, has started to mix kuduro beats with funk carioca, hip-hop, crunk and grime, while M.I.A herself throws down in Buraka's single "Sound of Kuduro."

Like early incarnations of the American hip-hop movement, Kuduro represents the voice of the voiceless in Angola. But it is the intersection of cultures, the unquenchable love for rhythm and dancing that ultimately mesmerizes the crowds. Listen for the beating of the drums and heed the words of MC Kalaf: "tune into our space and experience the ghetto music revolution."

The creation of Kuduro by Tony Amado

Check out this YouTube video of Buraka Som Sistema called "Sound of Kuduro."

Read other Global Music Corner stories.

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