© Revista LER/Portugal
Kalaf Epalanga, born in Benguela, Angola in 1978, is a well-known musician and writer living in Lisbon since the 1990s. As a musician, he co-founded the record label A Enchufada, a creative and dynamic platform that promotes new music styles from Portugal around the world, and went on to form the MTV Europe Music Award-winning band, Buraka Som Sistema. He wrote a regular column of short literary chronicles for the prestigious newspaper, O Público. Também os Brancos Sabem Dançar is his first novel.
In Também os Brancos Sabem Dançar (“The Whites Also Can Dance”), Kalaf, a member of the band "Buraka Som Sistema", is arrested on his trip to Oslo, where that same night he is to play a concert at the renowned Øyafest. Travelling on an expired passport from an African country, he is sent to prison. Illegal immigrant.
Fear almost always takes us back home, and Kalaf's home is the music of Kuduro which begins in the streets of the frenetic capital of Angola, in the bodies and stories of those who live to shake off rhythms, or the ghosts of war, from within the soul. Identity.In an extraordinary work of auto-fiction, Kalaf Epalanga shows us the world from Luanda to Kristiansand, from Beirut to Miami, on a tour driven by the urgency to give the rhythms of different countries their true history. Music.
The story is taken up by Sofia, who since childhood has been perfecting the best Kizomba dance steps, and who, hand in hand with Quito, drifts through the streets of the most African of European capitals. Lisbon.
The last word is given to Viking, a Nordic border policeman who recalls Ava, the Lebanese woman who was his first love, when he strips off his uniform and becomes part of the collective movement that dissolves all frontiers. Love.
How can you explain to two immigration police that Kuduro has become a therapy for Angolan people living without running water or electricity, that there is a whole world to be revealed there? To understand it, it is not enough to look at statistics and the EU’s Dublin Regulation. You have to let yourself fall into someone's arms, in the half light, crying and smiling at the same time, dancing. Or, simpler still: freely love another culture.
In his new collection of chronicles O Angolano que comprou Lisboa (por metade do preço) (”The Angolan who Bought Lisbon (at Half the Price)”), Kalaf Epalanga reveals himself to be an astute observer whose profound and unsentimental texts are modern yet timeless and always to the point. His topics range from everyday reflections on things like life as a musician, dance styles, a reunion with a long-lost class mate or the invention of the minibar, to more deeply personal issues such as identity, origin and racism, with Angola and Lisbon as recurring themes.
Written in precise yet poetic language, his chronicles will strike a chord with readers all over the world.
From the moment I got here, I’ve been haunted by a feeling of belonging. The greatest Angolan I’ve had the privilege of knowing is my grandfather. He always wanted to be a writer, but there was never enough time. So it’s for him that I, who have time on my hands and dedicate my life to the craft of forging words into stories, sign this and those which follow with a new name: Kalaf Epalanga, at your service.
The great agitator.
Também os Brancos Sabem Dançar
Lisbon: Caminho 2017, 371 p.
English sample translation available
O Angolano que comprou Lisboa (por metade do preço)
Lisbon: Caminho 2014, 232 p.
English sample translation available
Estórias de Amor para Meninos de Cor
(signing as Kalaf Angelo)
Lisbon: Caminho 2011, 240 p.