Photo, from left to right: DJ MJ, DJ Satelite, Killamu, and DJ Satelite's brother.
In past columns I've covered some recent trends within kuduro and house music in Angola, but today I want to give you a feel for how these genres and trends interact—or in fact, how they don't—and how one man is helping to bring everything together. He is also a damn good beatmaker! Listen to DJ Satelite's "Moto," featuring Pastilha, below, then read how he makes it all happen.
Download: DJ Satelite f. Pastilha, "Moto"
At the top of the Angolan music business, very few players control CD distribution, which is still very significant, as well as access to TV and events. These outlets are very concentrated, but music creation is not. Dozens of producers, hundreds of singer and thousands of dancers all compete for a spot within the tiny upper echelon circuit. As you can imagine, competition is fierce. Most artists see other artists as rivals, not as partners, and I suspect the industry has been purposely disaggregated. For the most part, producers don't speak to each other. The concept of beef is extremely common among singers, especially within kuduro. Every new song tries to impose a new concept or dance to top what is out there already, and music is increasingly disposable. Basically everyone seems to be on their own.
But there are always connectors, and as I travel I've learned to seriously appreciate such people, as they are crucial to my work. Usually these connectors are not direct rivals, and usually they are not singers or beatmakers. Often they're wheel-and-deal types with a hand in many projects who don't pose an immediate threat to anyone they introduce me to. But in Luanda the man connecting the dots for me was in fact a beatmaker. One of the very few producers who embraces house music, yet does not shy away from kuduro, the style in which he first honed his skills. DJ Satelite seemed to have been sent from another planet—pun unintended—to make things work for me in Luanda.
The man seems to know every single person involved in the city's music scene. More importantly: they know him! Everybody picks up his calls, and even if they don't, he knows where they live so there is no escaping him. DJ Znobia, Killamu, DJ Jesus, MJ, DJ Fofo—you name them, he is in touch with them, first hand. He knows how things work in Luanda, be it in the cidade (city center) or the musseque (outskirts). Living on the edge of the Marçal neighborhood, he is close to practically every significant kuduro beatmaker in town. But Satelite is also connected to most house music producers, and is well aware of the club scene, where house music rules.
What's more: Satelite has traveled outside of Angola, and has an impressively clear vision of how things work in other parts of the world. As such, his online presence is strong, and he is constantly on Soundcloud, where he uploads his latest house tracks, and he is also the founder of the So Kuduro group on Facebook, 8,000 members strong and counting. He genuinely took it upon himself to help me in my quest, because he saw potential in growing international links for Angolan music, and he believed in what I was trying to achieve with my label Akwaaba.
Satelite is not only good at bringing people together, he is also a damn good beatmaker. His Seres Produções outfit produced some of Os Lambas’ first hits, in particular "Comboio." He comes from kuduro, so you know drum patterns hold no secrets to him, and when he makes house music, it's highly percussive, irresistible stuff. Case in point is this beat he gave me, "Moto," featuring Pastilha, a kudurist I did not have the pleasure of meeting. Like Satelite himself, Pastilha's music is a bridge between house and kuduro. Such bridges are all too rare. Perhaps the difference is subtle—I've been listening to gigabites of Angolan music on a daily basis, so forgive me for being monomaniac here—but in Angola there is still a sharp divide between house and kuduro, and songs like "Moto" that join the two are not all that popular. It's strange to me, because I feel this in-between is what has the most potential, something with a bit more of an edge than straight house music, and something slightly less aggressive than straight kuduro.
Whether that blend is truly the future, time will tell. In the meantime, I can only give thanks once again to DJ Satelite: obrigado mano.