History of Kizomba

  • What Is Kizomba?
  • Kizomba – music genre ©
  • Kizomba – dance genre ©

Kizomba is the result of an evolution. It describes both, a music style and a dance style. Kizomba is an Angolan word which means “party” in the Kimbundu language. Kimbundu is one of the most widely spoken languages in Angola within the ethnic group called Bantu. The Angolan expression Kizombadas in the 50’s referred to a big party, but there was no link with the dance nor with the music as we know it today.


Traditional dances like Semba, Kabetula , Kasukuta , Maringa, Caduque, Rebita, Cidralia , Dizanda , were predominant at that time. The majority of these dances are primarly carnaval dances. In Luanda, the Angolan capital, you can see almost all of these dances one by one during the „Carnaval da Victoria“. This carnaval and the carnaval from Lobito from the provincie of Benguela made these dances popular in the whole nation and are promoting the Angolan culture until today .

1) Carnaval at Luanda
2) Carnaval at Luanda

Apart from Angola, Kizomba dance and music is also performed in other lusophone countries (Portugese speaking countries) such as Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, East Timor, Brazil and the territory of Macau. Yet, its popularity is also growing rapidly in the Western world and nowadays Kizomba can be found also in Portugal , UK, France, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, USA as well as in some Eastern European countries such as Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Serbia. Undeniable, Kizomba is on the rise to conquer the world as a romantic music that catches the ear and as an incomparably sensual dance that captivates the soul.

Kizombalove, besides being a dancestyle it’s also a teaching methodology developed by José N’dongala himself. The “José N’dongala Kizombalove methodology” is used by a lot of Kizomba dancers and teachers because of its unique technique, structure and approach.


José N’dongala launched the first official and professional “Kizomba teachers course” syllabus in January 2012 in Belgium. It is the first professional “Kizomba teachers training” syllabus on the market. His Kizomba teachers training program is called José N’dongala Kizombalove Methodology teachers course. He is also the person who officially introduced Kizomba and Semba in Belgium.

Kizomba music was born in Angola (in Luanda) in the 80’s following the influences of traditional Semba music (the predecessor of Samba from Brazil) and Zouk music from the groupe Kassav from the French Caribbean Island Guadeloupe.

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

Today however, Cape Verdean singers have gained a wide popularity with many famous Kizomba compilations, including singers such as Suzanna Lubrano, Johnny Ramos, Nelson Freitas. As a matter of course, a lot of people are confused about the origins of Kizomba music and wrongly believe it comes from Cape Verde because of their important role in Kizomba music production today. Typical music styles from Cape Verde are Funana, Morna, Coladeira and Batuque. Thanks to the Zouk music from Guadeloupe and the strong influence of Kizomba (from Angolan), Cape Verdian singers could also develop their own version of Zouk (mixing it with Coladeira) known as Cola-dance, Cabo-love, Cola-zouk, Cabo-swing and Ghetto Zouk. Moreover, every lusophone country has developed its own Kizomba music flavour.

From my point of view what people call Kizomba today is an evolution of the tradional dance Semba. It is evident that Kizomba dance as we know it today evolved after the vogue of Kizomba music.


Since the 50’s, Angolan people used to dance Semba. This tradition remained unchanged even when the groupe Kassav from the French Caribbean Island Guadeloupe came to perform Zouk music in Angola in the 80’s.


Angolans simply danced their traditional Semba movements also to the Zouk music. Parallel to that, another special way of dancing called Brucha Brucha (men dancing with men) evolved. Brucha Brucha was a mix of Semba with other African dances and was sometimes danced on Zouk music from Kassav too.


In the 90’s when the actual Kizomba music got more and more popular, also Kizomba dance started receiving more and more credit and began to take the form it has today. What happend is that Angolan Semba dancers started to adapt their Semba steps according to the tempo and flavour of the Kizomba beats. Technically speaking, Semba danced in a slow way to Kizomba music is the basis of the Kizomba dance we know today. Angolan Semba dancers love their Kizomba music and when Kizomba music is played they often danced and still do dance Semba on the tempo of the Kizomba music they are listening to. We can say that at the beginning of its development, Kizomba was dancing Semba at a slower tempo according to the beat of the Kizomba music. This was the origin and is partially true until today – what makes the difference now is that with time certain typical Kizomba movements have been developed which are explicitly danced to Kizomba music and not necessarily to Semba music.


It is important to underline that in Angola we do not really make a big difference between Kizomba the dance and Semba. But we do make a big difference between Kizomba music and Semba music.


Angolan Kizomba competitions are mostly danced to Semba music as they still believe that Kizomba is nothing else than dancing Semba at the tempo of the Kizomba song they are listening to. Certain even believe that their Kizomba competition should be called Semba competition. Only Angolans from my generation (1970’s onwards) will still be able to remember these truths as so far there is not sufficient scientific information yet, nor widely acknowledged research about the development of Semba and Kizomba.


Due to the Cuban presence in Angola during the civil war (1975 – 2002), their overall culture and especially dance culture strongly influenced Kizomba. Hence, Cuban elements can be found in the Kizomba dance. Milonga and Tango were also much appreciated in Angola as a result of globalization. Both dances equally influenced Kizomba dance as we know it today. Some people even describe Kizomba as “African Tango”.


One of the most famous Angolan Semba and Kizomba dancers is Mateus Pele do Sangado. He is our Kota “big brother” and we have a lot of respect for him and his great talent and imagination. He has inspired a lot of young capable dancers in Angola and especially in the capital Luanda.
I would like to finish this chapter with the following reflection:
There is a considerable difference between Kizomba “the music” and Kizomba “the dance»: Kizomba “the dance from Angola” has NO Zouk influences. Kizomba “the music” has Zouk influences from Guadeloupe and Martinique. So when you hear that Kizomba has Zouk influences, always bear in mind that it refers to Kizomba “the music” and NOT to “the dance”.

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(José N’dongala Kizombalove Methodology teachers course – KIZOMBA TEACHERS COURSE, p. 19-21)