Academic journal article African Studies Review

Anatomy of Kuduro: Articulating the Angolan Body Politic after the War

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Anatomy of Kuduro: Articulating the Angolan Body Politic after the War

Article excerpt


Kuduro, meaning "hard-ass" or "in a hard place," is a contemporary genre of music and dance produced and consumed in Angola, especially in Luanda. This article maps kuduro historically and assesses it in its current moment. While the dance is full of invention and the genre has thrived in the informal economy, this alternative expression and the infrastructure it produces cannot be considered politically or economically liberatory. But the international "os Kuduristas" campaign promoted by two of the Angolan president's children and companies they own shows the dangers of a culturally conservative discourse that dismisses kuduro as a vulgar popular phenomenon while hegemonic political and commercial forces embrace it.

Résumé: Kuduro, qui signifie "dur à cuire" ou "dans une passe difficile," est un genre contemporain de musique et de danse venant d'Angola, en particulier du Luanda. Cet article présente le Kuduro dans son évolution historique et évalue son impact actuel. Bien que la danse soit pleine d'invention et que le genre ait prospéré dans l'économie informelle, cette expression alternative et l'infrastructure qu'elle produit ne peut pas être considérée comme politiquement ou économiquement libératrice. En même temps, la campagne internationale "os Kuduristas" promue par deux des enfants du président angolais et les compagnies qu'ils possèdent, montre les dangers d'un discours culturellement conservateur qui rejette le Kuduro comme un vulgaire phénomène populaire tandis que des forces politiques et commerciales hégémoniques se l'approprient pour promouvoir leur discours.

Key Words: Music; postwar politics; dance; kuduro-, reconstruction

At the opening of a YouTube video uploaded in 2010 by the Angolan media outfit PowerHouse Productions ( hSNppdtM), three children and a dog sit before a large-screened iMac in an empty studio. Two boys, pastel colored iPods in hand, signature white earpods dangling from their ears, direct the girl tapping the keyboard to hit "enter" to the command (in Portuguese) "send Windeck to all iPods." The echoey sound of the fast-paced music loop on the computer is muffled by the sound of her rapid keyboard strokes. It is a serene beginning for a piece of Angolan kuduro music that won its artist, Cabo Snoop, the award for the Best Lusophone Act at the MTV African Music Awards in Lagos, Nigeria, in December 2010. As the young girl clicks "enter," we slip into the music video itself: a scene in saturated tones with Cabo Snoop and his late producer, IVM. In skinny jeans and cartoon-emblazoned T-shirt, Cabo Snoop's elastic leg moves and pelvic pops accompany the speeded up synthesizer chord progressions of what becomes the song's chorus: "windeck, windeck, bah-bah-bah." The camera then cuts to him in front of a crowd of young men and women dancing. He turns to the camera and says in Angolan Portuguese: "DJ, DJ, DJ! Stop the music and let me explain! Windeck is a babe who, when she's heated up, only wants . . . windeck, windeck, windeck, bah-bah-bah." The next lyrical interlude finds Cabo Snoop explaining again: "Windeck are also those dudes who, when they see babes heated up, take advantage ... windeck, windeck, windeck, bah-bah-bah." A third pause has the clip's executive producer, Hochi Fu, looking at an iPad through dark glasses, asking "Hey dude, but what does windeck mean?" Cabo Snoop responds: "If you don't understand it yet, let it be!"

Throughout the video, the question is met with an ironic smile from Cabo Snoop who, troupe in tow, breaks into dance each time it is posed. The playful, sexually suggestive lyrics and clip underscore the ambiguities of speech and gendered communication and have facilitated the song's promotion, as every Angolan interviewer questioning Cabo Snoop on television or for print obligingly asks, "now tell me, what does windeck mean?" But "windeck" can only connote, never denote: it floats unmoored. …

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