Dance Genre Buzz : The Sensual and Romantic Kizomba!

For our next Dance Genre Buzz, we explore Kizomba, one of the most popular genres of dance and music originating in Angola.   This genre is noted for its slow, romantic, and sensual characteristics. Read on to learn more about this ornate style of dance!




Kizomba is one of the most popular genres of dance and music originating in Angola. It is a mix of traditional Angolan semba with kilapanda and merengue sung generally in Portuguese, wrongly confused with Zouk, because the pace is very similar. In Europe the word “kizomba” is used for any type of music derived from zouk, even if not of Angolan origin. It was the Kimbundu name for a dance in Angola as early as 1894. The Kizomba dancing style is also known to be very sensual and flows with a music of a romantic flow.


Origin and evolution

Kizomba music was born in Angola (in Luanda) in early 80s following the influences of traditional Semba with Kilapanda and Merengue. On this basis, Kizomba music emerged as a more modern music genre with a sensual touch mixed with African rhythm. Unlike Semba, Kizomba music is characterized by a slower and usually very romantic rhythm. Given that Angola is a former Portuguese colony, Portuguese is the principal language spoken in Angola and thus, also most Kizomba songs are sung in Portuguese. However, Kizomba songs of the very beginning were song in Kimbundu and in other National languages of Angola.

The dance style Kizomba was connected to the music style in 1981, through “Bibi king of the pace” percussionist of the SOS Band, a group that joining other styles such as Merengue and Angolan rhythms to others styles developed by other contemporary groups, developing a sound more attractive and danceable that began circulating in the Angolan “Kizombadas” (party’s).[3] One member of this group was Eduardo Paim that after the dissolution of SOS, moved to Portugal leading with him the pace Kizomba, which began garnering fans in Lusitanian lands but mistakenly confused with a variant of Zouk.


Eduardo Pain

—I am the precursor of Kizomba. It was a process that began in the early 80’s with groups whose names are Afro Sond Star and soon after SOS. I was inspired by the Afro Sound Star, already assumed as reference style the Kilapanda, in the mix appeared things that excited me, I gathered a lot of references that I could grab from the Semba and our Merengue, and these references eventually gave me conditions to unwittingly develop a sound which, face it, people fell in love. When I arrived in Portugal (with my music), I was highly criticized and even they called her Zouk. But it is not Zouk. It is Kizomba.


Confusions between Zouk and Kizomba arise after many Cape Verdean emigrants in France in the late 80’s, have taken contact with Zouk and mix it with a traditonal Cape Verde style the Coladera, creating the Cola-Zouk, a derivative of Zouk, very similar to the Kizomba and typically sung in Cape Verdean Creole. It is this rhythm that is confused with Kizomba, and is heard in Portugal when Eduardo Paim arrives there and releases his first record with Kizombas.

Presently, in Lusophone countries and communities around the world, and due to it being very difficult to distinguish between Zouk, Cola-Zouk and Kizomba, all these styles are called Kizombas, however in a rough and generic way, one can say that Zouk is sung in French, Cola-Zouk in Cape Verdean Creole and Kizomba in Portuguese or Kimbundu.

However although Kizomba was not originally a fusion of Semba and Zouk, presently arose a version of Kizomba influenced by Zouk, and is wrongly being popularized as Kizomba, as the name given to this version is “Kizouk” or “Kizombalove”. This Zouk influenced of Kizomba (or vice versa) is actually becoming very popular throughout the world.[5]

It is also performed in other Lusophone African countries, in Europe and in USA. It is known for having a slow, insistent, somewhat harsh, yet sensuous rhythm; the result of electronic percussion. It is ideally danced accompanied by a partner, very smoothly and slowly, though not too tightly. A rather large degree of flexibility in the knees is required, owing to the frequent requirement that dancers bob up and down.


Cultural influences

The influence of Angolan Kizomba is felt in most Portuguese-speaking African countries, but also Portugal, where communities of immigrants have established clubs centered on the genre in a renewed Kizomba style. Kizomba is now also quite popular among white people that come to these clubs in growing numbers. The São Tomean Kizomba music is very similar to the Angolan, Juka is the most notable among the Sãotomeans, but it is also one of the most notable performers in the genre.

In Angola most clubs are based in Luanda. Famous Angolan Kizomba musicians include Neide Van-Dúnem, Don Kikas, Calo Pascoal and Irmãos Verdades, Anselmo Ralph, among many others, but Bonga is probably the best known Angolan artist, having helped popularize the style both in Angola and Portugal during the 1970s and 1980s.

Kizomba dance

Kizomba is mentioned in 1894 in the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society of New York which said “the genuine Kimbundu name is Kizomba, that is, dance.” In Angola in the 1950s the expression Kizombadas referred to a party. There was no association of the word to a dance or musical genre. However, the dance known as “Semba”, “Rebita”, “Kabetula”, “Maringa”, already existed in the 50’s and 60’s. Other dances coming from Europe like Tango were practiced by the Portuguese colonials. The style of Kizomba is now emphasizes a very smooth way of dancing with influences of Tango steps, but one of the main differences is that the lower body, the hip, does forward/backwards and circle movements. People dance on the tempo, as well as playing on the off-beat and only sometimes using syncopation steps.


Countries where Kizomba is most popular include Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Portugal, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, East Timor, Martinique, Brazil and the territory of Macau.

Various individuals who feel involved with the Kizomba culture have been seriously promoting it in other countries, such as Belgium and surrounding nations, where an independent Kizombalove academy has been created by José N’dongala.

Famous Angolan Kizomba singers include Bonga, André Mingas, Liceu Vieira Dias, Neide Van-Dúnem, Don Kikas, Calo Pascoal, Heavy C., Puto Portugues, Maya Cool, Matias Damasio, Rei Helder, and Irmãos Verdades.

Kizomba in Belgium

Kizomba has been present in Belgium since 2006.


Kizomba in the UK

Kizomba has been present in the UK for about 20 years with Afro-Portuguese parties organized as early as 1991 in various venues around London. It only started crossing over to the public from 2005 when showcased in various Salsa clubs around the UK



How to dance Kizomba

Kizomba Dance

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Kizomba is originally from Angola. As with other Latin social dances, Kizomba combines elements of European ballroom dance with African dance movement and timing.

Kizomba Timing:
Kizomba is in 4/4 time – which means that there are four beats to every measure. The larger cycle in the music revolves around 4 measure cycles – ie: each measure has four beats, so when 4 of these measures pass, 16 beats will have passed.

Basic Steps:
In Kizomba, there are several basic steps – each with its own timing. In addition, in Kizomba there are a variety of dance moves that bring the dancers temporarily away from the basic step patterns. Part of the challenge of dancing Kizomba is for leader and follower to remain synchronized in their steps.

Basic Step Variation A
The most basic step in Kizomba is a side to side two step. It starts for the leader on the left foot and for the follower on the right. The leader steps to the side with the left foot, then brings the right foot together with the left in a tap (do not leave your weight on the right foot). Then the leader steps to the right with the right foot and brings the left foot together with the right for a tap step. The pattern then repeats. Each pattern takes one measure to complete – with a step or tap on each beat. The follower mirrors the leader with the opposite foot.