Ghetto Palms: DJ Znobia / Angolan Kuduro

June 11, 2008

Every week resident FADER selector Eddie STATS runs through dancehall riddims and other artifacts from the ghetto archipelago.

Angola is one of those words that resonates with meaning way beyond the little square inch on the map it designates. For Namibians and South Africans, Angola was a second home to the ANC in exile back in the days of Apartheid and a source of Radio Freedom broadcasts—a place across the border to get to and join the freedom struggle. For Brazilians, Angola is the ultimate birthplace of much of their African culture. The oceanic depths of pride and suffering that Angolares conveys there and throughout the Portuguese-speaking world probably can’t be translated into English, but you can taste it a little in the sodade that Cape Verdean diva Cesaria Evora puts on it when she sings.

Since the end of Angola’s decades-long civil war in 2002, it’s resonated with a more joyful kind of noise—the dance style called kuduro. Kuduro, which literally means "hard ass"--as in "buns of steel", not as in "badman"--has snuck into DJ sets from Diplo and Radioclit via secondary scenes in Brazil and Portugal, especially the Lisbon-based label Enchufada. Not to be out-globed, MIA got her Angolan visa to record in Luanda for Kala, but the trip was pre-empted by a motorcycle accident that left her prospective collabo, top kuduro producer DJ Znobia, hospitalized. Ultimately through the digital magic of Youtube, Maya and Z did virtually link up on the “Sound of Kuduro” posse cut by Buraka Som Sistema.

If you haven’t been hit over the head with it already, what follows is an intro to the sound in the form of a Q&A with Znobia and a 10 minute blend of tracks from him and BSS.

Kuduro blend:

DJ Znobia, “Mama Kudi”

DJ Znobia, “Socoto 2038”

Buraka Som Sistema, “Wawaba”

DJ Znobia, “Esquema de Mae Ju”

BSS f. DJ Znobia, Saborosa, Pluto Prata & MIA, “Sound of Kuduro”

BSS, “Yah” (Sinden & Count of Monte Cristal rmx)

Download: Ghetto Palms Kuduro Blend

Through a combination of phone and email questions translated by Enchufada label head Kalaf Angelo, I finally tracked Znobia down late last year to answer the following questions. This was intended for FADER’s Africa issue but unfortunately a series of photo shoots were precluded by coma, malaria, muddy roads and language barriers. But pics or no, it was too good to leave in the archives; brain pickings from the man who’s so third world even MIA can't hang.

Where did you grow up?

Bairro do Rangel in Luanda.

How did you start making music?

I achieved a certain fame as a dancer first. One of my heroes was Michael Jackson; I could imitate all of his steps. After that I sang, but no one believed in my talent so I decided to start producing. I’m an autodidact, I learned the secrets of electronic music by observing other musicians. DJing happened out of necessity--to make my music reach the people. If it wasn’t me playing my productions, no one would.

What kind of equipment do you use?

PC Computer, MIDI keyboard, Guitar. Reason and Fruit Loops are the programs I use the most.

Do you consider your music strictly kuduro?

I am a kuduro producer. I do other kinds of music too, like tarrachinha, which is a slowed-down kuduro, closer to zouk and very sexual. But what best defines my music is really kuduro, it’s in my blood.

What’s the scene like in Angola now, is it different from Lisbon and Brazil?

In Lisbon they produce something that could be called ku-techno or ku-house. The scene in Luanda’s gone through a lot of changes; in the beginning it was more about celebration and having fun on the dance floor, then it got underground and the music reflected more the roughness of the streets. Today it’s found a more positive way. MCs are writing better, they don’t lose that much time on dissing anymore, this is certainly gonna raise the quality.

Is the scene strongest in Luanda?

Luanda is where kuduro is made but at the same time it’s the place where this genre is ignored the most. The clubs prefer to play dance music from other countries. The other cities of Angola absorb kuduro better. All the producers in Luanda feel that way; we get more artistic recognition outside of Luanda.

Were you aware of MIA’s interest in working with you on Kala? Does she have fans in Angola?

I knew about MIA’s interest through Kalaf and Buraka Som Sistema who played me her music when they were here. They told me about her desire to come to Luanda to work together. Her video is playing a lot on MTV--Angolans are mad about television and react fast to things with heavy rotation on TV.

What non-Angolan music are you influenced by?

I listen to what gets here from baile funk. They have a similar movement to ours and I like the sound. I listen a lot to artists like Lokua Kanza, Papa Wemba and a lot of African folklore, which gets me tripping, almost like voodoo. But all of this is gonna end up in something which is my kuduro.

What projects are you currently working on?

My next album, the remix of “Wawaba” for Buraka Som Sistema and a 12” with tunes of mine for their label Enchufada.

Posted: June 11, 2008
Ghetto Palms: DJ Znobia / Angolan Kuduro