Accepted Paper:

Flipping over: violence and comedy in Angolan kuduro dance  


Stefanie Alisch (Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies)

Paper short abstract:

Kuduro, Angolan electronic music & dance, refers to violence in kinetic, verbal & musical material. Kuduro dancers flip over into iconic stupor like freeze where violence & comedy conflate. Deploying theories of humor a close reading of video stills examines this brutally funny icon of kuduro dance.

Paper long abstract:

Kuduro, the electronic music and dance from Angola contains many references to violence. "Vai morrer gente" - ("people are going to die") or "Vou te matar" ("I am going to kill you") circulate in kuduro lyrics.

Kuduro dance moves have overt kinetic and nominal connections to Angola's recent four decades of war. The Kamorteiro move (named former UNITA general) dances a soldier withdrawing while watching out with weapon in hand. The backwards flip with landing on the buttocks or back is called "simate" ("kill yourself"). Kuduro dancers report having created especially drastic moves to entertain traumatized troops in the war-ridden provinces.

The moment when violence mimetically flashes up in kuduro performances is often also a comic moment. Foreseeable slapstick numbers, wordplay, sensuality, grotesque facial expressions, infantilizing movements blend with the violent aspects of kuduro dance. Performers flip into a stupor like posture that sticks out the bottom, arches the back in, tucks the arms in stiffly, bends the legs outwards and the pulls the face into a exaggerated expression where smile and terror are hard to tell apart.

This paper looks at this "flipping over" moment. Harking back to Astrid Kusser's work on the icon of the cakewalk, an icon of kuduro dance is isolated from video recordings. A close reading of these iconic snapshots in conjunction with theories of humor ask how the combination of violence and comedy in kuduro dance points into a future beyond suffering and confusion.

Panel P083
Revolution 3.0: iconographies of utopia in Africa and its diaspora