Welcome to Sound Atlas, a weekly series showcasing LessThan3’s desire to scan the world for the most exciting sounds in global electronic music. This week, we turn our attention to kuduro.
With organic roots in Caribbean soca and zouk crossing back across the pond to Africa, the kuduro sound was invented in the southwest African nation of Angola in the 1980s. Logically extrapolate the colonial roots of Angola being colonized by Portugal in the 16th century and it explains why, in the modern day, the sound at present expands most significantly from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city.
Kuduro’s one of the world’s most intriguing sounds of the moment because of it’s Afro-European roots. Europe’s providing techno, Dutch house and big room vibes aplenty to the genre, while back in Africa, the sound is more fully evolving as a drum machine-driven percussive pop sound that is the best of all worlds. Add hip hop’s urban swagger into the mix, and the future is bright.
A carnival-friendly sound, kuduro’s North American-specific expansion has come in the underground via Portuguese bass supergroup Buraka Som Sistema breaking through with kuduro-inspired tracks. As well, in zumba classes in gyms across the country, mainstream music fans are likely unassumingly breaking into dance to Don Omar’s reggaeton/kuduro smash Danza Kuduro.
Insofar as the future of the sound? It’s now a staple of the ever-expanding global underground, a favorite vibe for developing producers to sample to showcase an evolved and diverse production palette. On the mainstream, there’s not much of significance happening, but one can only presume that as a new breed of worldly, Diplo-influenced producers gain renown, that’s certain to change.
Here’s five tracks that best showcase the past, present, and future of the kuduro sound.
Buraka Som Sistema – Hangover (BABABA)
Buraka’s early trips to Luanda, Angola inspired this anthem as a local kuduro emcee chanting “Bababa” blends with frenetic percussion, cumbia’s sweeping basslines, and UK funky-style club vibes to make this a truly progressive track for any era. This legendary underground smash is available for purchase here.
Os Detroia feat. DJ Cachorro – Chiba
Hip hop meets kuduro as Angolan quartet Os Detroia’s 2014 single Chiba features call-and-response vocals, marching band percussion, and an uptempo party vibe for which the sound is renowned. But check that trap drop at about the two-thirds point of this track–it’s a clear nod to the ubiquity of Southern swing in all pop formats, and if you ever wanted to get a clear sense of what triangle trade sounds like in musical form, it’s unmistakable in this production. Purchase information is difficult to locate, but do check out the official video for the track at the end of this column.
DZC Deejays – Ain’t Worry About Kuduro (Remix)
The DZC Deejays are a significant crew in Portugal’s underground dance community. From zouk bass to kuduro, their sounds have an unmistakable pop flair that comes from mixing in rap, zipping synths and hard percussion that speaks to urban streets worldwide. You want to hear a track that is drenched in more than enough African percussion to make you remember that French Montana is Moroccan-American? Download this one for free here.
Don Omar feat. Lucenzo – Danza Kuduro
With five years and Top 10 success in the US (Hot Latin Song Chart) and over 17 other countries in Europe and South America, this is kuduro’s biggest pop crossover single. Reggaeton rhymer Don Omar’s on the vocal, and there’s something in the accordion on the track that lends it a folk sensibility that belies the sound’s more Afro-urban vibe worldwide that led to it’s tremendous success. Still don’t have your hands on this one? Grab it here.
Steve Starks – Git Em (Munchi’s Kuduro Remix)
Back in the days of 2011 when people perceived that Munchi was solely a moombahton superstar, he remixed DC-to-LA underground production whiz Steve Starks’ clubby bass banger Git Em into a near seven-minute kuduro firestorm. Searing synths, fidgeting vocal chops, marching riddims, and an organic Afro-Latin feel probably make this akin to what peak hour at a festival on the surface of Mars sounds and feels like. Purchase this one here.