Boomkat Product Review:
Catalyst of the kuduro phenomenon, Angola’s DJ Znobia gets his long-overdue flowers with the first of a four-volume deep dive into his archive conducted by the awesome Nyege Nyege Tapes - 100% crucial for DJs/dancers feeling Príncipe stars, Nazar, M.I.A., Fever Ray
Arguably the most influential African producer of the past 30 years, Sebastião Lopes aka DJ Znobia forged the kuduro (meaning “hard ass”) sound with early versions of FruityLoops software against the backdrop of a civil war that has been documented, for example, in Nazar’s hi-tech echo of the OG sound.
Galvanising traditional styles of semba, kilapanga, and kazukuta with a technoid chassis between the late ‘90s and mid ‘00s at home in the Barrio Do Rangel music (shantytown) of Angola’s capital, Luanda, Znobia forged a virulent, energetic sound that spread like wildfire to the rest of the world during the nascent blogging era of the internet, grabbing attention of M.I.A. who enlisted him to produce ‘Sound of Kuduro’ from her pivotal album ‘Kala, and resulting in consequent releases with early kuduro disseminators Enchufada and Diplo’s Mad Decent. Then, practically nowt until NNT stepped in for this unmissable session, sifted from some 700 unreleased tracks to give a proper handle on Znobia’s templates for kuduro and its sexier sibling, tarraxinha.
In parallel to FL-produced movements of grime or bassline in UK, baile funk from Brazil, or merengue in the Caribbean, kuduro represented the voice of African and Afro-diasporic modernity; an upfront and incendiary dance sound that selectively updated the past for jacked-in, jacking bodies of a new era. While nowadays perhaps best known internationally for the work of DJ Marfox, Nervoso, or Niggafox on Lisbon’s Príncipe, the seeds of kuduro are clear to hear in Znobia’s productions. Catapulted by slamming kicks, and syncopated with pinging percussion, screwy soft-synths and sampled vox, Znobia’s style still sounds ruthlessly upfront and fresh decades later, and never more primed for western dancefloors ever drawn to the rudest, ruggedest dance music finesse.
For peaktime players, the series’ full throttle kuduro cuts are unmissable, but a big part of its appeal owes to the number of revelatory, slower tarraxinha bits, too. For every high pressure bomb like ‘Zambinamina’, the 4/4 grime-esque ‘Wo’, body-bouncing ‘Cuba em Angola’, and the utterly ratchet kuduro-noise of ‘Pausa’ or ‘floor-animating ‘Tom e Jerry’, there are slow screwed zingers such as the ‘U uu’ with its noirish strings and clipped strut, or the shades-on ‘Esfregado’ with its jagged rave riffs - not to mention the porno-sampling ‘Piqueno’ - each set to a molten, dancehall and dembow-compatible 95-100bpm.
Along with the likes of Príncipe’s early Lisbon scene survey ‘DJs DI Guetto’ and DJ Marfox’s Revolução 2005-2008’, consider this unprecedented set of DJ Znobia trax absolutely necessary listening and historic tackle for anyone tracing the rhizome of contemporary Afro-diasporic dance music, and its links to hybrid western pop music of M.I.A. or Fever Ray, in the C20th.