I have the great pleasure of writing this column from Luanda, Angola. I was here for the first time three years ago and managed to share a small bit of kuduro on this same website. This time around, I'm happy to give you a bit more substance, first in the form of a very interesting encounter with two guys who are pushing the musical envelope down here. Meet Tchoboly, beatmaker and kuduro artist, and Sarissari, rapper and extra-fly dresser, who combine to form Tchobari, a group already making serious waves in Angola. I had the hardest time picking one of their songs for this column, because they're all dope, but in the end I went with "Quem Mandou Me Nascer," which literally means “who asked for me to be born,” as in “mind your own business”.
Download: Tchobari, "Quem Mandou Me Nascer"
Tchoboly is no newcomer on the music scene here: he started doing kuduro in 2000 with his group Tchoboly Makina. He has worked with some seriously heavy Angolan groups, such as Kalibrados (hip-hop) and Anselmo Ralph (R&B, kizomba). More recently, he has produced most songs on Game Walla's album, which came out in 2009, and, personally, that was when I started to really get into his sound, The main genres today in Angola are kuduro, afrohouse, rap, kizomba and samba, and few artists fuse them, despite some significant crossover successes (in particular, I am crazy for Big Nelo and Vagabanda's 2009 kuduro/rap collaboration Surra). Rather than keeping things separate, Tchoboly expertly mixes everything together into a genre he calls kwatsiru. On a Tchoboli track you might hear semba guitars, kizomba or kuduro snares, house kicks and hip-hop vocals. It's a very dense and potent mix, which instantly caught his partner Sarissari's attention a couple of years back.
Sarissari, the other half of Tchobari, started rapping in 2005 with his group D-Way (as in "Different-Way"). He tells me: "It didn't go well. We were young, we had no experience at the time, and honestly speaking the lyrics were wack, so it didn't work out!" But Sarissari continued rapping: "I kept on working, kept on trying to do something with other people." This led him to record an album with top Angolan producer Heavy C, which unfortunately has yet to be released. Sarissari tells me he felt things simply took too long. Thankfully, he met a spontaneous and reactive producer in the form of Tchoboli: "Let's record. When? Right now!"
Tchoboly invited Sarissari to his studio to lay down a verse. "I was starving for delivery," Sari says. "I was waiting, practicing. When he showed me the beat, it was like I was waiting for that shit. It was a different beat, kwatsiru, for me it was like YEEEAH, that's me, thats my style!" First, the two recorded the song "Bring It." The next day Sari stopped by to listen, and Tchoboli showed him another track. They recorded it. Next day he was back again to edit the second track, and Tchoboli showed him another one, so they recorded it again. "It felt like we were both waiting for someone. I don't know, it was a strange feeling, but a good feeling."
The two seem to have found a perfect working balance. As Sarissari puts it: "Sometimes, the beat has too much information, so I tell him to take this out, take this out, take this out. For me, the guy is an amazing producer, but I think having two heads doing one thing is the key to our success, because sometimes I'm blocked and he'll guide my flow." And vice versa.
Interestingly, the two decided to release their first three songs at the same time, with two music videos. "People know us because our video [for the song "E Male"] is very unusual in Angola. We are dressing up old school with bow ties, riding motorbikes. There is no champagne, no hot chicks, it's just us showing Angola. Everyone—little kids, old people, youngsters—can relate to it, because what they see on TV they can see everyday."
Before leaving the studio, Tchoboli and Sarissari showed me their latest recording with a certain Angolan artist called Cabo Snoop. So expect more hits from these cats throughout 2012. The album is set for release this summer in Angola, i.e. December. Til then, stay warm!