Kizomba describes both a genre of music and a dance style. The word Kizomba in Kimbundu language, one of the most spoken languages in Angola means “party.” The word “Kizombadas” refers to “a big party,” but has no correlation to the dance or the music as we know it today. One of the traditional Angolan dances Semba still very much alive in Angola, is it labeled and or characterized as a dance of steps. It is danced in pairs, and in wide steps. Semba usually dance at parties, it is mostly a fun dance and it is danced to Semba music. Other traditional dances and primarily carnival dances other than Semba were Rebita, Kasukuta, Kabetula, Maringa, Caduque, Cidralia and Dizanda.
Kizomba however is a partnered dance also from Angola and has only been around since the 1980’s. Kizomba the dance is simply Semba danced to the rhythm of Kizomba music. The dance is known to be slow and sensual, it is smooth and flows with movements that are somewhat harsh and requires a lot of flexibility in the knees for the frequent bob up and down motion of the dance, lower body, hip movements and “bunda” action if you will, Kizomba is danced in a circle and does forward and backwards movements. Due to the colonization of the Portuguese in Angola, and the presence of Cubans during the Civil War, other form of dances from Europe such as Tango, Plena from Puerto Rico brought by the Cuban also exist in Angola. These dances as well, influenced Kizomba, such as Cuban Son, Milonga, Tango and therefore Kizomba has also been described as the “African Tango.” In Angola, there is not a big difference between Kizomba the dance and Semba however, the Kizomba music and Semba music differs dramatically.
Today, what we refer to as Kizomba the music is the influence of traditional Semba music and Zouk music from Kassav the leading Zouk band to emerge from the formative years of Zouk from Guadeloupe and Martinique, formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Decimus and Jacob F. Desvarieux. Zouk or Zouk beton is the French Antillean Compas music. The word Zouk originally referred to the mazurka a Polish Folk dance with the creolized version “mazouk” introduced to the French Caribbean during the 19th century also means “party” or “festival” in the Antillean Creole of French. The Creole word “soukwe,” “souke,” “zouke” is from the French verb “secouer,” which mean “to shake” was introduced by Haitian Meringue Compas which is a fast tempo style that requires a lot of movement.
Semba also describes both the dance and the music. Semba is the traditional type of music from Angola. The word Semba comes from the singular Masemba which mean “a touch of the bellies” a move that also characterizes the Semba dance. Semba music is the predecessor to a variety of music styles from Africa including Kizomba and Kuduru and Samba from Brazil. Semba is primarily Carnival Music. Semba just like Samba and Kuduru are known to be energetic, fast paced and upbeat music. Through Semba music artists are able to convey a broad spectrum of emotions and overall the Angolans culture, sorrow and way of living.