Semba is a branch of the Angolan folklore dance tree; other dances include Kazukuta, Rebita and Kabetula. It is a very social environment where it was firstly seen as singing and dancing to being part of the culture of Elderly Angolans (called cotas). Early Portuguese settlers described and named semba, 'Angolan merengue'. There are two main types of semba: the slower 'semba lenta' (also known as 'cadencia') and the faster 'semba rapida'.
Historically semba music was created at the end of the 1940s, by the group N'gola Ritmos. The lyrics were a mixture of Portuguese and Kimbundu, the local Angolan language, and were often about freedom, revolution or government criticism. Since Portuguese people did not understand Kimbundu, singing semba songs was forbidden for a period of time.
The music of semba is distinctively instrumental, including accordion, percussions, piano, violin, guitar, reco-reco and wind instruments. In traditional live music, it is still played by musicians such as Banda Maravilha, Puto Portugues or Yuri Da Cunha. An electronic subgenre of semba has been created due to the evolution of music, which is influenced by the featured work of DJs or producers such as DJ Pausas, DJ Satxibala, and Dj Barata. Other well-known musicians in this genre include Bonga, Don Kikas, Puto Portugues, Rei Helder, and Matias Damasio.
Semba dance is based on several elements of the folkloric moves with the most well-known being 'masemba', which is danced to rebita music. The word 'masemba' literally means 'rhythmic touching of bellies'. This was an early social form of couple dancing. Compared to kizomba, semba requires a more rigid posture, a bit of distance between the partners and arm leading is crucial as opposed to the leading by the upper body. The use of 'tricks' to surprise the ladies appears more often and the men adopt a distinctive walking pattern. The leads do their best to playfully surprise the followers with unexpected stylish steps, moves, dips or tricks. These special and stylish movements define semba's unique flavour. The inventory of tricks in semba is only limited by creativity of the dancers.
Artists who are representing this culture through their dancing include Petchú & Vanessa, Morenasso & Anais, Paulo & Lanna, Jamba Mulimbwe, Jacinto Teca, Mr. Tecas & Miss Jo, Ricardo & Paula (Afrolatin Connection), and Miguel & Susana