BLOG: DIY music videos and Angolan street culture

BLOG: DIY music videos and Angolan street culture

Music on Film is a strand that Film Africa has programmed for two consecutive years, given the wealth of musical talent that is being captured on screen. Here, Ian McQuaid, Friend of Film Africa, looks at DIY Kuduro videos on Youtube, which gives us a glimpse into Angola’s thriving youth culture. For more on Angola check out our Portuguese speaking strand,“Lusophone Liberty: 40 years on”. 

Youtube is an archive without an index. Buried amongst its swelling detritus is treasure. Filter cat clips and acoustic covers and find entire canons; hours upon hours of music videos documenting post-millenial genres that have barely existed (in recorded form at least) outside of the site.

As physical ownership of music becomes largely meaningless to teenagers with no means or incentive to play vinyl, cassettes or CDs, video has become the crucial medium to release music through. Street level artists unwilling to go through the rigmarole (and pitifully low returns) of getting sold on iTunes, look to all important Youtube views to signal success. In the UK there are whole continuums of grime and road rap videos disseminated through channels such as GRM Daily, SBTV, Just Jam, Link Up TV, and Rap City that have no concurrent mp3 or physical release. Largely self-shot in the areas the artists live in, these videos are essential markers of the style, aspirations, dreams, dances, fears and jokes of a generation.

Similar scenes can be found worldwide. Search for mp3s of the high energy Kuduro music flooding out of Angola in the aftermath of some 30 years of civil war and you’ll have no success. There are no tapes being sold on online music marketplace Discogs, and precious few compilations in Amazon’s heaving inventory. But trawl Youtube and there is a trove of amazing music, accompanied by DIY videos shot in the streets, rooftops, living rooms and shops of a country finding a new voice. However, with esoteric titles, tiny view counts and a complete disregard of the tagging system, the first wave of these videos, uploaded around 2010 – 2012, have largely become obscured from all but the most specific search.

Almost all of the videos I’m posting today were introduced to me by a Youtube user called Hikore. All I know about Hikore is that he was based in Paris, and he had an incredible wealth of contacts with Angola. I’d assume he was an Angolan immigrant, but life has often proved that assumptions are traps for the unwary. If I’m honest I’m not even 100% he was a he. From around 2010 – 2013, Hikore ran a Youtube channel dedicated to Kuduro music. We emailed each other a few times during this period, me asking about the provenance of this or that video, and, more often than not, trying to hustle for an mp3 version I could play in UK clubs, only to be told, more often than not, that no such version existed. When Google decided that all Youtube accounts had to be linked to a Google Plus account, Hikore’s channel, along with all its videos, disappeared. Around 700 videos, seemingly lost.

After a couple of afternoon’s spent picking through old email chains, I’ve managed to pull together some of my favourite videos from Hikore’s channel. They sound as vital now as they did 4 years ago, perhaps even more so; hectic explosions of Angolan street culture that capture a mood and energy of a generation, sparking with the glitch and gleeful invention that comes with the embrace of uncharted technologies. Forged in the heat of a self-publishing revolution, is it so far-fetched to imagine these rough edged classics to be as significant as the texts produced by the Gutenberg press?

For more on music and Angolan culture at Film Africa 2015 see our Music on Film and Lusophone Liberty: 40 years on strands.