During a lesson, one of my student raised his hand and expressed his confusion about the variety of music styles belonging to the Kizomba Umbrella. The Answer probably would have taken the whole hour of lesson so I decided to write an article ( with examples ) to make some order.
Nowadays we have so many different kind of music on the dance floor and most of the time people don’t even know what they are dancing ( and in someway it’s ok like this ) and they are not able to recognise the differences. So it happens a lot of time than in parties denominated ” 100% traditional” ( forgive me to use this word which doesn’t exist in the Kizomba world ), 99% of the times what you are listening is Ghetto zouk. So you could already ask, What is Ghetto zouk ?
Ok, let’s starts like babies and move one step after the other without running.
First of all, we need to define where Kizomba come from. Kizomba born in Angola because the mix of 2 different style, called Semba and Zouk ( Not Brasilian Zouk ). We need then to define these 2 style first and then move forward to all the style presents now under the Kizomba Umbrella.
Semba is the traditional music of Angola, most of the people associate Semba with fast music, but it’s a mistake. Of course mostly Semba songs are fast but there are also Slow Semba and this brings a lot of confusion because normally, people take Slow semba as Kizomba. So how can we recognise what is Semba and what is Kizomba ? The Rhythm structure is quite similar, but if we pay attention to the percussions played in Semba we will recognise that the Rhythmic section is mostly played with the Hi percussions like ( hi hats , Hi snare ) and the kick ( bass drum ) is not so present like in the Kizomba Song. Plus Semba is always played with real instruments, there are guitars, brass sections, Bass guitar etc etc. To finish Semba is sung in Portuguese.
Let’s hear some Examples :
This is a typical Fast Semba Song
But as we said, there are also Slow semba which often are confused with Kizomba.
In both songs you can perfectly hear the “motion” of the percussions who define the Semba Rhythm but also the main Flavour of the music is totally African.
We move now to the Carribean and we meet the traditional Music which is Zouk. When you listen zouk for the first time you recognise immediately the syncopated Rhythm which is so familiar in Kizomba, BUT …. What actually gives the Zouk groove and keep the song going is the Bass. The motion of the Bass is unmistakable and personally I love that kind of “fat” motion. Zouk is always in French language, which gives to the voice a more melodic appeal and the whole song has that kind of Carribean flavour which we cannot find in Kizomba. In Zouk we can find both Real instruments but also Synthesizer or drum machine.
This is a really famous song from Kassav which is one of the most famous Zouk band
And this is another Example from another Zouk Singer
As we know, Kizomba is the mix of the traditional music from Angola ” Semba” and the French Carribean traditional Music ” Zouk” . The first thing you will notice is the Zouk syncopated Rhythm and the Kick ( bass Drum ) is well present. The bass is present but it’s not the element who move the song; What keeps alive the song is still the drum. About the speed you could find slow Kizomba and Fast kizomba ( this are usually confused with Semba ). The Carribean Flavour is almost completely lost and Kizomba can be played with both real instruments mixed with synthetic instruments like Drum Machine or Synths. Eduardo Paim which is one of the father of Kizomba was playing a lot with Drum machine to create his songs. At last but not least … Kizomba is sung in Portuguese.
Here an Example from Eduardo Paim.
And another one from Philipe Monteiro
It’s also important to say that actually there are different Kizomba styles. We have the Angolan Kizomba but also the Cabo verde Kizomba. In this last Style there are some influences of Coladeira which is one the traditional music of Cabo verde.
WHAT’S NEXT ?
We covered now the 3 main styles where everything has started, But what happened when Kizomba arrived in Europe ?
Of course like in every kind of Arts , Kizomba passed through a lot of contaminations and we started to hear different names like Ghetto Zouk, Tarraxinha and at last Urban Kiz and Urban Tarraxa.
Ghetto zouk like the name suggest is just zouk with contamination of European music. The can have Hip hop, raggamuffin, R&B, Dubstep etc etc. Ghetto zouk can be sung in Portoguese but mostly is in English. The Appeal is definitely more modern. The producer use mostly Synthetic instruments and Computers to bring to life their songs. It’s not so uncommon to have singers who Rap on the music. If we could define in one word Ghetto Zouk … we could say that is the Zouk of the street. The bass is quite strong and presents but also simple. The Zouk Syncopated Rhythm is strong and the kick present. The song Structure is mostly the one we use for 99% of our European/American music which is Intro/Pre beat/ Sing Part/ Chorus/ Sing part / Chorus / Bridge / Chorus.
This was one of the First song who everybody danced when Kizomba Appears in Europe. Funny that we were convinced this was Kizomba ( me included ) but we were dancing on a Ghetto Zouk song. The Singer is one of the King of Ghetto Zouk; Nelson Freitas :
Another Song from Nelson Freitas in collaboration with Eddy Parker Williams. Listen the Rap part in the middle of the song.
A side mention goes to ZOUK BASS which is an ultra pumped version of Zouk with strong basses who are able to shake the floor. In this case we are moving towards the Electronic underground dance Scene. Just a little example :
It’s actually not really a Style of music but it’s definitely a style of Kizomba dance. Actually already Kizomba Fusion could be defined as Urban Kiz because for sure it’s not beloging to the original Kizomba. From my point of view it’s necessary to distinguish from Fusion and Urban also because the dance is quite different. In this section we could include all the Remixes of famous songs you could hear during the parties. Usually are songs produced by Dj’s who remix famous songs of pop, Hip hop, R&B or other kind of styles. Famous dj’s are Dj Radikal, Dj Alnova, Dj Madmo, Dj Snakes and many many others.
Some Examples from Dj Snakes
We need to do a special mention for Tarraxinha which even though is under the Kizomba Umbrella, the music is completely different. Tarraxinha music is characterized from the absence of Melody. What take over here is the Rhythm and percussions. We have repeated sequences of voices, synthetic sounds and usually the BPM are not going over 90 BPM. The Flavour is kind of Tribal music with a constant flow who characterize also the way Tarraxinha is danced. In Tarraxinha in fact there are not Man Saida or Lady saida or any kind of classic Kizomba Steps.
Finally let’s speak about this new style which is so common right now. In truth there’s not really a definition of what is Urban Kiz and what is not. Someone could say that Urban Kiz is Kizomba with urban sounds, but as we said before, we have already this and it’s called Ghetto Zouk. So what is Urban Kiz in Reality ?
At the moment just few Dj’s are producing Urban Kiz tracks and what we can for sure define is that usually it’s a quite hard music, completely electronic, Strong basses and the beat is much more complex. Sometimes the Zouk Syncopated Rhythm is completely lost to make space to layers of percussions who allow you to play on the dance floor with your steps. At the moment it seems quite cool to use Church choirs , Brass stabs ( coming from Trap style ), dance arpeggios and so on. 95% of the time Urban Kiz is instrumental, so there are no sung parts ( apart some repetitive phrases which actually are used as Rhythmical part ). At last Urban Kiz tracks has a lot of stops and go on the Rhythm which means the Rhythm is not constant ( like in Kizomba ). All these elements help the dancers to play with the music on the dance floor. In fact you won’t never see a proper Urban Kiz dancer, stepping on the beat. He will always play with the music looking for element on the song to play with.
A lot of producer of Urban Kiz tunes are now coming from Holland or Luxembourg. You would wonder why ? .. Well Holland is always been famous for Trance and Progressive dance music, so the Kizomba producers started to put their dance influences on the tunes.
Let hear some Examples of tracks.
Because Urban Kiz is a new born style and there are no references, it’s very common to hear on the dance floor, tracks coming from other styles that still has the Syncopated and complex Rhythm and electronic sounds taken from the Dance productions ( like Trance, house, techno and so on ).
It’s quite common then to hear this kind of music which is actually not Urban Kiz but Moombahton or Dancehall . The BPM here starts around 100 BPM, so already quite fast.
It’s actually quite fun to dance this kind of tracks to my point of view, because despite the strong and repetitive nature of this music, there are a lot of ideas to dance on.
As you can see there are plenty of Styles at the moment and it’s good to be able to recognise them. That’s why I’m always happy ( also because music is my passion ) if someone is willing to learn the differences. The point for me is not to be like a horse who look only straight but open your eyes widely and embrace all the Styles and change your dance according to it. Kizomba has a simple Rhythm, ( 4/4 for the ones who knows music Theory ) which is actually our occidental way of writing and perceive music and this made easy for the European producers to contaminate Kizomba with their backgrounds coming from other Styles.
For us of Kizomba Touch this is positive and nice. As our mottos says : Forget Fights just dance how you feel.