Kuduro

Angola

Growing up disabled in the slums of Luanda, the young Costuleta was videoed one day standing on the roof of a car and dancing like the world was coming to an end. YouTube became his showcase, kuduro his rhythm, and fame came to find him.

At COLORS, researchers shake the web, trying to find a theme – a subject for the next issue. On YouTube, one of the team finds a boy with a single leg, dancing exquisitely on the roof of a dusty car. The video is years-old, and the location is given as 'Africa'. The creative director leans over: 'we need to find that man.'

Metz, France. 2:30 in the morning. The L' Etoile discotheque is hot. The walls are sweating; the air impregnated with the peculiar perfumes of sex, tobacco and champagne. Bodies pounce upon each other in the dark as a bacchanal begins and the music invites you to lose control. The prudish or the shy are not welcome here. To be involved you must have TNT in your blood, fire in your feet and a stiff bottom – a very stiff bottom.

Kuduro (from the Portuguese cu duro – 'stiff bottom') is the rhythm bursting from the turntable. A powerful sound, simmered in earth under the heat of an Angolan sun, its rhythms mix the tales of semba with the lust of calypso and the beats of electronica.

Kuduro evolved in a trench during the guerrilla war between the MPLA, FNLA and UNITA, which devasted Luanda in the 80s. It surfaced like a heartbeat, then transformed into a flag, rallying against the Cubans, South Africans, Portuguese and Americans who sought to take possession of the Angolan people's land. Kuduro is at once a cheerful, joyous whisper and a ragged dance, mingling to become the Pinta, the Niña and the Santa María for crossing the sea and conquering Europe.

Costuleta is kuduro's brightest star, and it is Costuleta who dances when the lights of L'Etoile go down and the speakers shake with the chorus: 'eh tchiriri a dança do tchiriri.' Beginning as a dancer for Tony Amado – the genius that turned kuduro into a pop act – Costuleta de Porco ('Pork Rib', as Amado named him), took a sip of the stage and was instantly addicted.

I keep Kuduro for me and nobody will take this away.
Costuleta, 27, Paris, France

Playful, fearless, and hungry for his piece of the world, Costuleta's dancing did not begin on stage. He danced in Luanda's streets, in the mud, and on the roof of a car. Amateur videos of his dancing were uploaded to YouTube, and he became a god, viewed over 2,450,000 times. Born in the slums, he had conquered the sky.

You must be blessed to touch heaven, but you need more than luck to dance in hell. It takes a strong soul to dance kuduro with just one leg, but, for Costuleta, what might other-wise be a disability is his magic. After losing his right leg in a car accident at the age of four, Costuleta saw his closest friends and one of his brothers die in the crossfire of his country's violent past. 'My friends and my brother were taken from me without a court hearing or a tribunal', he says. 'Now the only thing that I keep for me is kuduro, and nobody will take this away from me.'