World 101: Kuduro
by Rachel Devitt | January 19, 2014
The sound of kuduro can pretty basically be described as rapid-fire electro-beats that weave together hip-hop, house, dancehall and local styles (including the transnational Afro-Caribbean genre zouk) with a tripping syncopation paired with singsongy rapping or speechlike singing (depending on the songs and your perspective). But one can't quite put into words the sheer electricity that bubbles out of this club-by-way-of-the-street music from Angola. Kuduro was historically recorded in shantytowns, then distributed to taxi drivers who would blast it and, in the process, disseminate it. (If that seems similar to the story of Brazil's baile funk, you won't be surprised to learn that these two postcolonial genres sound a bit like sonic cousins, as well.) It was an instant street party, and kuduro has retained that connection even now that it's also moved into chic clubs around the world.
These days, one of the best ways to dig into the vibrant contemporary kuduro scene is via YouTube, where artists and fans post videos featuring the frenetic, knock-kneed, hip-locking, quick-dropping dance that usually accompanies the music. (Seriously, go check out this. Or this. And especially this.) But you can also get a proper audio introduction with our genre-spanning primer playlist. Our Kuduro 101 mix features global ambassadors like Buraka Som Sistema, the Angolan-Portuguese outfit that set the electronic music world on fire when they introduced it to the previously little-known sound back in 2006, and Don Omar, whose smash hit "Danza Kuduro" (an interpolation of Portuguese artist Lucenzo's "Vem Dançar Kuduro") demonstrates kuduro's reach into the Latin music world. But it also features plenty of local Angolan talent, such as mega-star Cabo Snoop and Titica, the fierce transsexual who has bravely tackled the officially homophobic culture of Angola to become a major artist.