Kuduro and Identity
A Language of Resistance and Belonging

Kuduro, a genre of music and dance that originated in the streets of Luanda, Angola, has become more than just a form of entertainment. It has evolved into a powerful tool for expressing and asserting cultural identity, creating a sense of belonging, and resisting cultural hegemony. This article explores the role of Kuduro in shaping identity, particularly among African immigrants and their descendants in Portugal.

Kuduro, with its potent music and dance, is a form of urban and social intervention in Angola. It tells a story, often reflecting the realities of life in the urban ghettos. The language of Kuduro is highly creative, absorbing everyday gestures, street talk, and even inventing dialects like “burguês”. This language, both linguistic and gestural, is a significant part of its identity-forming power.

In Lisbon, Kuduro has had moments of significant expression among the youth in the periphery, having arrived in Portugal in the 90s through Angolan immigrants. The distribution and production of Kuduro have been facilitated by digital communication tools, with the internet, school, and the street being the main spaces for Kuduro socialization. This has reinforced affinity ties among immigrants and descendants, often referencing the country of origin or an imagined Africa.

Kuduro has been embraced by the younger demographic in Portugal, predominantly residents of peripheral neighborhoods with lower purchasing power. Despite being a style of music and dance practiced among African youth, it is part of the daily life of many other young people living in Lisbon and its surroundings, mainly through public schools. Even those who have never been to Africa master the Angolan slang and Cape Verdean Creole, adhering to the vocabulary and gestural and identity codes of the street.

The meanings given to a style of music and dance change according to the different social, national, or international contexts in which it is produced and consumed. Kuduro, for instance, has been used to comment on daily life, produce from the backyard to the street, and intervene in everyone’s life. This has allowed it to create transnational identities that the Kudurista adopts whether living in Portugal, Angola, Brazil, and beyond.

However, Kuduro has also faced many chains of censorship, criticism, contempt, and indifference. Many intellectuals did not consider it music, discriminating against it and associating it with the world of crime and unbalanced stories. Yet, this link to the ghetto and the musseques, where most of the Kuduro is produced, remains strong. The realities of inequality come to the surface in the lyrics and approaches, with creativity and rebellion being reinvented daily.

Kuduro has become a language of resistance and belonging. It has allowed African immigrants and their descendants in Portugal to express their cultural identity and resist cultural hegemony. It has also provided them with a sense of belonging, helping them navigate the complexities of their dual identities. As Kuduro continues to evolve and spread globally, its role in shaping identity will undoubtedly continue to grow.