Time Out São Paulo

Kuduro beats

There's a brand new rhythm lighting up the city's underground

The new Miss Universe, crowned in October in São Paulo, isn’t the only Angolese export making waves this side of the South Atlantic. The hard-hitting beat of kuduro is quickly surpassing the lovely Leila Lopes in popularity, at least on the dancefloor.

Born out of the favelas of 1980s Luanda, kuduro (allegedly stemming from the Portuguese words cu – arsehole – and duro – hard) is known as much for its below-the-belt, frenetic dance as the fierce beats and fast rap. Bodies move in ways you may never have seen.

‘It’s exploding right now, spinning off in many variations’, says DJ Rigga, who plays kuduro in his sets and ignited the inaugural Buraka night at Beat Club on Rua Augusta last month. The name of the night is a homage to the Angolan giants of the kuduro scene, the mighty Buraka Som Sistema, who released their latest album, Komba, in October 2011.

Komba is an Angolan religious festival, celebrated on the seventh day after the death of a loved one. São Paulo artist Stephan Doitschinoff, aka Calma, did the cover artwork. ‘It’s about ars moriendi, the art of dying and the art of living, and my work is a reflection of that in parallel with the theme of the album. It’s an ancient medieval tradition in which monks used to meditate on the fragility of life, placing the skull next to the bed,’ says Calma.

He’s not the only Brazilian influence on the new release. Iggor Cavalera, ex-drummer of multimillion-selling heavy metal band Sepultura, collaborates on the ultra-percussive track ‘Macumba’ (‘we had nothing, we started together from zero’) having been immersed in the rhythms of kuduro for a few years already. ‘I was drawn to the genre by the swing element of the music – it’s like new blood for electronic music which tries to be too perfect, too rigid’, says Cavalera, these days part of the duo Mixhell. ‘It’s also very roots, very raw.’

Kuduro arrived in Brazil with the transient immigration of Angolans, but has remained steadfastly underground. Even so, it has spawned groups like Salvador’s Academia Bahiana de Kuduro, and has the air of something set to burn bright.

The breakthrough track for those who don’t live in Lisbon or Luanda was Buraka’s collaboration with M.I.A. on the track ‘Sound of Kuduro’ in 2008 and their classic debut album Black Diamond. But for a quality intro to the genre check out the recent release, Bazzerk: African Digital Dance, on the Mental Grooves label put together by Parisian producers Jess and Crabbe, which showcases talent not only from Angola but hybrids from the international scene from Europe to South America.

Just stear clear of the bastardised version being touted by the likes of rapper Latino and his remix of the Don Omar hit ‘Danza Kuduro’, currently being hyped on Brazilian TV shows as the ‘hit of the summer’.

By Gibby Zobel
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