Ghetto Palms 65: Kuduro pt. 3 / Akwaaba Sem Transporte / Broadcasting Live From Angola (actually)

August 05, 2009

Last year I did two kuduro columns and subtitled the second Broadcasting Live from Angola, but in truth it was more like downloaded live (and DJ Znobia interviewed via complicated email and phone translations). I should have held back on the hyperbolic title because now Ben Lebrave, proprietor of the digital label Akwaaba music, factually went to actual Angola and filed the following Ghetto Palms report. He also laced me with a heap of kuduro selections from the brand new Akwaaba Sem Transporte compilation—in Ben’s words “the very first legitimate Angolan kuduro release outside of Angola”—for this week’s blend.

Akwaaba Sem Transporte kuduro blend:
Vagabanda, “Sucesso”
Puto Prata, “Cara Podre”
Fofando and Saborosa, “Number One”
Zoca Zoca, “Desbunda”

Download: Akwaaba Sem Transporte blend

Why is it that fools have been blogging about kuduro for the past 3 or 4
years, yet finding it has not gotten any easier? You can find 128
mp3s trickling down from Toké's podomatic blogs, you can certainly find some Western re-interpretations, most notably via BSS and Galliano, but as far as the sound of Luanda, it's real, real
tricky. That's exactly why I started Akwaaba. Because it
doesn't need to be so that way if someone takes the time to go to
Africa and see what's up. So I went to Angola myself. You may
have followed some of the past episodes here on the FADER site, but a
round-up is long overdue. The recipe for releasing this kind of stuff is simple: 1) Save money 2) learn some Portuguese 3) figure out how to cut costs on the ground (Angola is expensive as hell), and jump in. I knew very, very little
when I arrived, but I had already been to Abidjan and Accra, so I
had some idea of what home studios and urban/club music careers look
like on the continent.

But Angola is different. First of all, there are not that many outdoor
bars blasting kuduro. You hear kuduro from the candongueiros, the blue
and white minibuses criss-crossing all over town, but there are very
few spots for kudurists to perform. So they can't survive off of $100
to $300 weekend gigs, like coupé décalé artists do in Ivory Coast.
What Angola does have, is pretty decent music festivals and big
promoter shows. Legit shows, which pay huge fees. It's not unusual for a
kudurist to get paid $3000 to $5000 for a show. That's US dollars. Of
course that's still nothing in regards to what 50 Cent or Akon get
paid there ($300,000 - $500,000. I told you Angola's expensive) and the reality is most groups are not even close to making a living with their music. You might if you sing, but if you make beats, forget about it. Kuduro DJs get no respect whatsoever. So with all my good intentions, you'd think it'd easy to convince them to work with Akwaaba and make some money abroad, but not so much. The sight of a white guy brings suspicion, especially given the history of other
white guys showing up with dubious intentions for kuduro.

I kept it pretty down to earth and straightforward, and it paid off. I gained the trust of many kudurists, even some of the most established, like Puto Prata and Vagabanda. I was able
to see kuduro from top to bottom. I saw kids lining up at 8am at DJ
Fofu's studio to record a track. I saw Sebem step out of his huge SUV before
his daily TV show and I also met Tony Amado, kuduro's creator, humble yet influential to this day.

Akwaaba Sem Transporte reflects the scene in Luanda right now. It
shows the hits and shows the newbies. You'll hear lots of rapping.
Rappers have completely taken over kuduro. And you'll hear cleaner
beats—sometimes. I think what you'll hear most is the energy. Every
successful song is an anthem in one of Luanda's bairros. It's about
time this sound arrives to our shores. Thanks to Eddie for letting me
blabber on here. Hope you dig the music!
–Benjamin Lebrave

From The Collection:

Ghetto Palms
Ghetto Palms 65: Kuduro pt. 3 / Akwaaba Sem Transporte / Broadcasting Live From Angola (actually)