Kuduro is a much more energetic dance and music form than the better-known Kizomba. It is part of the renewal process in Angolan society since the civil war, in which young people are expressing themselves and embracing the future.
Mario Patrocinio’s first film was Complexo Alemao: Universo Paralelo (2010) which was made inside one of the largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro, showing the lives of ordinary people and the impact on them of the drug trade.
His interest in the energy and originality of Kuduro began in the ‘90’s and in 2011 in Angola he formed a partnership with Coreón Dú to make his new film “I Love Kuduro“.
To understand Kuduro it has to be seen against the backdrop of the long civil war following independence in Angola. Young people are hungry for change and a way to express themselves, in a country which despite its rapidly growing economy is still very unequal.
The film makers were not making a political film, but as Mario says: “What really captivates me is the essence of the human being, people’s ways of facing life and breaking down barriers and the ability people have to exceed themselves.”
I met Mario in Lisbon after the film was shown at the DocLisboa festival, and he shares his infectious enthusiasm and tells The Prisma, why he loves Kuduro.
Kuduro is the most popular cultural movement in Angola. It arose in Luanda, the capital city, in the early ‘90’s towards the end of the 30-year civil war,it’s a mixture of electronic beats, dance moves, lively vocals and exuberant body movements, an explosion of colour and unique styles.
At that time local DJs with access to the international scene played House and Techno in discos and raves in downtown Luanda.
DJs and dancers improvised choruses and daring dance moves ( ‘toques’ or touches) over the beat. Kuduro emerged from this and expanded from Luanda to become a part of the daily lives of Angolans, and is now beginning to take on the world.
Each Luanda neighbourhood produces a different style of Kuduro. The lyrics generally speak about the simple things in life, although some have a call to social action. Often the singers provoke other artists in their lyrics, producing vocal duels that feed the Kuduro world.
Kuduro culture is in the fabric of Angolan society — on street corners, in school parties, taxis, or even a football stadium.
As much as Kuduro grew as a fusion of genres, today it is intrinsically linked to an international pop and urban style.
How did you come to make the film?
The will to make a movie about Kuduro came when I was living in Brazil, working on “Complexo: universo paralelo” , but the passion and the curiosity for the subject go back to my college days, when, in the mid-90s, Kuduro appeared in some clubs in Lisbon. I wondered where those frantic beats came from, with animations that seemed absurd, but made us move.
The rhythm was contagious and the music was accompanied by live animations, with dances and “touches” that drove the clubs wild. I wanted to know how Kuduro was made and who were the real stars and craftsmen of that sound.
Two years ago, when I decided to develop my project, I met a cultural entrepreneur, Coreón Dú, who also wanted to tell the story of Kuduro so we joined forces and made”I Love Kuduro“.
There was very little information available, so we decided to spend time in Angola, to discover, live and feel the Kuduro phenomenon in its own context, go to the right places, meet different people and talk with Angolans from different places. We spent 6 months there for this reason, although the shooting only took 6 weeks.
Angolans are a very happy and spontaneous people. They’re authentic, funny, friendly and very cheerful. They also have the advantage, from our point of view, of being very comfortable on camera. Sometimes, all we had to do was to turn on the camera to capture an interesting, spontaneous and funny scene.
That scene where Principe Ouro Negro and Presidente Gasolina are sharing their drinks with a chicken and then start dancing with it, was completely spontaneous.
Besides the image, the name is also an important part of the kudurist’s identity; it’s a way of getting noticed and differentiating themselves from each other. Along with creativity, which has no limits, the artists sometimes also use irony and humour to distinguish themselves. You have to find something in your hairstyle, dress or performing to mark yourself out as unique. Sebém was a pioneer and influenced the way artists present themselves.
Being gay or transex in Africa is often a harsh experience but Titica seemed to be very popular as an ‘out’ performer.
Yes, Titica is very popular, she’s adored in Angola, which shows the mentality of the country is changing. Her shows draw huge crowds, mostly women, who are her true fans. She’s the first transsexual public figure in the history of the country, and in a continent where sexual intolerance predominates, she’s managed to open up minds and break down prejudice. Kuduro is happiness; it’s a form of personal expression, but also of liberation. It’s a very important step for Angolan Society, but also for the rest of the African continent.
I watched the film E Dreda ser Angolano, which has a more serious tone, was it difficult to make a more political film?
It was never my goal to make a political movie, I’m not attracted to politics. What really captivates me is the essence of the human being, their experiences, feelings, peoples’ ways of facing life and breaking down barriers and the ability people have to exceed themselves.
We are interested in the way the world is changing, and I believe that the positive energy of people is what will bring about change. And music works across cultures. I think it can change society by bringing people closer together, regardless of their race, creed or social class.
“I Love Kuduro” was very well received by critics and the audience response was truly surprising, they laughed and applauded, something I had never seen in a cinema. It helped that the film was in Portuguese, but Brazilian people have an affinity with the rhythm, the energy and the joy of Kuduro. Brazil has a very strong African side connected to the past, and today it is one of the most racially mixed countries in the world.
How have things changed in the favela Complexo do Alemão, since you filmed there?
The structural changes are obvious now,but a real analysis will only be possible after the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, to understand how the investments that were made have turned out and if they had a real impact on people’s quality of life.
I think the focus of investment must always be on health, education and especially on children. The future is in the hands of today’s children, therefore, we must invest in them if we want to see some real and lasting changes.
Bro, our production company, works in a triangle between Portugal, Angola and Brazil. We have a strong team project development, and several ideas in the documentary and fiction areas, and various projects in different stages of production.
We are passionate about our work and we want to keep telling stories that deserve to be told. May these good winds continue and keep us sailing beyond!