Angolan Kuduro: Carga, Aesthetic Duelling, and Pleasure Politics performed through Music and Dance


Dr. Stefanie Alisch

Research Area:


In this study I investigate kuduro, a form of Angolan electronic dance music with highly expressive dance moves called toques. The thesis is situated in the discipline of musicology. I draw on methods from ethnomusicology, dance studies and linguistics to produce primary data, which I triangulate with popular and scholarly discourses around kuduro. In line with established practice in popular music studies, I contextualise these findings with concepts from cultural, post-colonial, and performance studies. Following Kubik’s (1988) call to investigate African music from an intracultural perspective, I explore the term carga in kuduro. Carga is a polyseme meaning "weight; power; load; electricity; ammunition". Within kuduro carga is construed as an experience of presence and pleasure (Danielsen 2006) induced through competition on vocal, musical, kinetic and sartorial levels which in turn enhances the intensity of performance. I construct an etic perspective of carga as a performatively produced effect of aesthetic surplus. This allows for analysing the performative processes of rhythm, vocals and dance which produce carga in the song-toque "Apaga Fogo" by Noite Dia feat. Puto Lilas. The lens of pleasure politics (Morgan 2013) shapes my interpretation of what kuduro music and dance afford in the Angolan and diasporic context. I expand Morgan's view of pleasure politics as individual performers' empowering strategies and include large-scale strategies to harness kuduro's euphoric mass reception to support presidential, party and state politics. The Black Atlantic (Gilroy 1993) crossed with the Lusophone Martix (Arenas 2011) serves as cultural theory in the background and Music as Performance (Cook 2012) as theory in the foreground. I lay out the musical and historical contexts in which kuduro emerged and proceed to portray kuduro’s spatial hubs (Kiwan, Meinhof) Luanda and Lisbon through case studies. Contributing to the emerging media studies of Africa, I historicise the relationship between dance and mobile video in kuduro, thus investigating kuduro's double existence as local embodied experience and global media phenomenon, as visceral and visual (Daniel 2011).