Angola's Accidental Star Takes 'Hard Ass' Dance Global

Kuduro, Angola’s signature dance style since the late 1990s, moves the masses … and the asses. From the coolest dance floors of Luanda’s lively nightlife to the city’s sprawling slums and the most far-flung villages, the blaring beat takes center stage. Literally translated, kuduro means “hard ass” — and it’s what you’re likely to have if you can keep up with the masterful moves of Cabo Snoop.

The 30-year-old rose from the slums to become an Angolan sensation on the back of an engaging personality, slick dance moves and, of course, catchy tracks. Next on his agenda? Conquering Africa … and beyond.

His rise is all the more impressive when you consider where he came from. Born Ivo Manuel Lemos when his country was in the throes of a 27-year civil war, he grew up in Bairro da Cuca, in Cazenga, one of the many overcrowded slums of Luanda. In these places, survival is constantly threatened by poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation and a host of other perils. Ivo would have been one of five children, but two of his siblings died young. “My mother used to call me ‘No one’ because she said that no one knows if you will live or die — but thanks to God, I did,” he remembers, with a mix of sadness and gratitude in his voice.

Within the confines of Bairro da Cuca, Lemos found his love for dance. His Michael Jackson moves came naturally to his limber figure and provided endless entertainment for his friends and family. “I was never able to listen to music and not dance,” he says. “It came naturally to me.” His natural talent and passion for movement motivated him and kept him believing that he was a contender for something big.

Still, this wasn’t his career plan. His older brother signed him up for university, but Lemos showed up once and never went back. He found work at Power House — the studio that would ultimately launch his career — as a movie set assistant. There he met Hochi Fu, a producer who ran the studio and took to his style and extroverted personality. It was also Fu who recognized his talent after hearing him sing over an instrumental piece. From there, the two collaborated to get Cabo Snoop his first hit in 2010, “Windek,” that now has over 2.5 million views on YouTube. Fu was also responsible for branding the kuduro star with his name. Fu’s strict style of running his studio like a military school earned his assistant the rank of Cabo, or Private, and his perceived resemblance to the lanky famed rapper Snoop Dogg gave birth to the name Cabo Snoop.

Kuduro is an integral part of life in Angola, born in Luanda’s slums and finding global renown through artists such as the Portuguese electronic dance music group Buraka Som Sistema. “As an Angolan, there’s no way to get around kuduro; it’s everywhere,” says Claudio Silva, managing director of Luanda Nightlife, Angola’s leading digital food and lifestyle platform. “Kuduro is an urban music form and a real, gritty example of life in Angola’s slums. The fact that it’s so catchy and unique propagated it around the world.”

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Chariese ElizabethComment