Passada vs Kizomba

“The whole deliciously adorned, sweetened with rose water, the misfortune of some is the good fortune of others. The exploitation of a people is often the ideal way to hold on to one’s privileges.”


I see many debates or conversations online about passada and I can see that many people don’t actually know the difference between passada and kizomba. In fact, because of this confusion there is a “war” between Caboverdian and Angolan teachers trying to prove that what we call kizomba today was influenced by passada from Cabo Verde.

What is Passada?

What is the difference between passada and kizomba?  Did passada come from Cabo Verde or Angola?  This post is an explanation about the differences between them and MY THEORY about kizomba in Angola vs passada from other PALOP countries.

Before the word kizomba was adopted by Angolans in the 80s most PALOPS used to refer to it as “passada” (including many Angolans btw).  Passada uses the universal basics of couple dances.

-Side to side
-360 degree rotation

These are basics that I BELIEVE came from the European dance called waltz.  There is published information about the existence of waltz dating back to the 16th century. I have continued to search for any information I can find on partner dances from Africa prior to slavery and colonization. If anyone has information about partner dances in Africa pre-dating the 16th century that include these universal basics please share the information with us.


So now let’s go back in time to understand how these universal basics spread all around the world.  During slavery one of the methods used to control slaves depriving them the right to education. One of the best ways to control the masses is keeping them uninformed. An uneducated person is much easier to manipulate and control.

As humans are resilient creatures that adapt to change, much of what we know as “African Culture” today was really a product of survival during times of colonial oppression.  The culture of African elders passing their history to the next generation existed before the Europeans arrived, however, this practice became stronger after we were forbidden to learn how to read and write. Many of our elders also used music to keep passing on our identity.

Now back to the dance. Today many Africans feel proud to say that we don’t need to go to any dance school to learn how to dance because culturally we just need to watch someone dancing to learn or we learn with family and friends. That was another cultural imposition by Europeans. Without access to learn we adapted. We found forms to keep learning and evolving and from this process the formation of new “cultural dances.” Without formal instruction humans learn from how they perceive something and obviously we do not all perceive exactly the same way.

Almost all partner dances have what I call universal basics; from bolero, to son, to bachata, to semba, to forro, to tango etc…  Each of these dances are how each culture perceived and mutated those basics into something that reflects their identity.

Now back to passada. Obviously these basics where brought by the Portuguese in the case of PALOP countries. They were the ones colonizing us and that’s why it is common in Guine Bissau, Caboverde, Mozambique, Angola and São Tome and Prince.

Each PALOP country perceived the movement in different ways but none of them really embraced it like Angolans, Cubans, Dominicans, Brazilians or Argentineans. These countries took those basics and created an identity; an identity that represents their country and their history.


Now let’s fast forward to the 80s and 90s after decolonization. PALOPS are now faced with the need to immigrate to the country of their former colonizers in search of a better life. Why? Because the colonizers made sure when they were leaving the countries they oppressed and stole rich minerals from that they stripped out infrastructures and resources leaving behind chaos, misery and the continued need for dependence…in short maintaining their power.

In the 80s and 90s Lisbon was full of PALOP emigrants and all those African emigrants had something in common; a love for Zouk and Kompa music, regardless of the love they had for their own traditional music and dances.

It was from that common music taste that clubs were created that attracted PALOPS who could all dance together because we all knew PASSADA, nothing more than those 3 basics I mentioned. It wasn’t until we saw Angolans in this emigrant mix that we first saw someone doing something more with those basics. Saidas, changing directions, far more fluidity and still using those same basics we all knew. Like always, we adapted into this more technical dance and we embraced naturally the evolution of our basics we then called passada.

Till today, if you go into some Caboverdian or Mozambican parties and watch them dancing you will not see more than these 3 basics I mentioned plus what we call retrocesso.

So easily Caboverdians, Mozambican, and Guineans can claim that before kizomba they had passada and it belongs also to them and they are “right.” BUT semba* and kizomba is the evolution of passada with the Angolan identity. Everyone today that applies saida or more technical steps to their “passada” that is not passada anymore but kizomba.

For PALOP countries passada was our first African movement to create our own identity of these universal basics. Semba and kizomba are the Angolan identity of those universal basics.

I’ve created a compilation of videos showing how different cultures created their own identity from these universal basics.

CULTURAL APPRECIATION – Most cultural dances today represent the identity of their country and that’s why it is important to respect them. They represent the nation they came from, often coupled with the history and pain of their people.
They did mutate from something like urban kiz has. Because urban kiz is still in its infancy it is still looking for its own identity. It’s time to allow this new dance to find its own identity and its own name because kizomba belongs to a nation already.

*Obviously semba predates the 80s, this post is about passada vs kizomba. It is impossible to talk about kizomba without naming semba. Semba is a much older dance, however, it still demonstrates the universal basics as I’ve outlined in this article.

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