This is real and dirty completely contemporary street music that has developed across continents and is as heavy and far removed from safe open minded white middle class as you could get. With this album, Buraka Som Sistema have pushed the boundaries further and spread their net of influence wider to incorporate elements of Hip Hop, Dubstep, DnB, Bashment, Dancehall, and Techno, but still under all this is the driving Kuduro rhythms that are built to make you move.
[Release page] Komba is the second album from the Portuguese collective Buraka Som Sistema. They have established themselves at the forefront of the current wave of Kuduro music that has been building momentum over the past few years. Kuduro initially originated in the streets of Angola where it developed as a hybrid dance form fusing traditional African and Caribean styles (Soca, Semba and Zouk among others), and putting it against a western techno style 4/4 beat. Kuduro, which means “hard ass” in Portuguese (the official language of Angola) is a high energy dance sound which spread to Portugal via immigrant communities of Angolans, and was assimilated into the pop and dance music scene over there. It has now spread much further a field, thanks in no small part to the success of Buraka Som Sistema who have turned it into a crazed bass heavy multi cultural dance phenomenon.
OK, history lesson over. What about this album then?
Well, I can tell you that it is just about the best new music I’ve heard this year. It’s got so much energy and ingenuity to it; infectious rhythms that make you wiggle and a bass so heavy that the most hardened dubstep bass-bin hugger will be more then satisfied. This is a true World Music album, and as much as I hate that generic term, this is the most appropriate use for it I’ve ever heard. Forget the lame westernised attempts to bring African or South American folk music into the listening palette of middle class alternative types, or for that matter any music which comes from a country other then Western Europe or the USA which all gets bundled under the heading World Music. This is real and dirty completely contemporary street music that has developed across continents and is as heavy and far removed from safe open minded white middle class as you could get. With this album, Buraka Som Sistema have pushed the boundaries further and spread their net of influence wider to incorporate elements of Hip Hop, Dubstep, DnB, Bashment, Dancehall, and Techno, but still under all this is the driving Kuduro rhythms that are built to make you move.
I love this album. I love that it is so genuine. With its roots in the ancient Angolan dance of Masemba (translation: to touch bellies) and its influences from so many cultures, it is a breath of danceable fresh air. Almost every track has a vocal collaborator on it, often more then one at a time. It’s been said before that the addition of vocals often makes a track more accessible and commercially viable, and I think this is probably true in this case. Certainly in terms of live shows, of which Buraka have been solidly plying their trade across the globe in the last few years, vocals make a huge difference. There is something special about the vocals on this album in that they range across several languages, usually within a single track. This is great for me, I love hearing different languages, especially ones which are completely unfamiliar to me. In fact I find it a little annoying that bands or artists from different countries very often sing in English despite it not being their native tongue. I realise that this is the way to maximise the potential listening figures and ultimately sales, but it just seems a little contrived to me when this happens, like we’re being fed a watered down Westernised version with the real stuff being kept back for the street corners and backyards of the originating country. This album is unashamedly multi lingual though, and for this I am most grateful. The mix of English, Portuguese and whatever else is in there gives a genuine feel to the music, and keeps you on you toes, or ears… or something. I think what I’m getting at is that it assumes the listener has the mental capacity to deal with words and elements that are not familiar to them without turning off, as opposed to the standard assumption that people in English speaking countries are incapable or dealing with other cultures, or unwilling to (it might be true for some, but they need not concern themselves here frankly, nor we with them).
Buraka Som Sistema are a full live band incorporating live percussion, vocals and dancing on stage plus the ubiquitous live laptop mystique. There has been a rise in the number of live electronic bands who incorporate live instruments into their shows, but Buraka show the way in this, putting to shame many of the multitude of live dubstep bands out there. I would say this experience has had an influence on the making of this album, there is a very live feel to it despite the studio produced nature of its creation. These tracks would work equally well on a festival stage (which they have done consummately) as a sweaty club with exalted DJ’s spinning records to hordes of crazed dance fans. I’ve played a couple of tracks through club systems, and I can assure you they deliver in that setting. It is, after all, music designed to make people dance. Never the less, the bass production is supreme; deceptively simple in form, the Buraka basslines shake things down to the core. Heavy!
It’s hard to pick out a favorite on this album, they are all good. Perhaps “Hangover (bababa)” has the most impact in terms of immediate energy and heavy bone shaking bass. “(We Stay Up) All Night” is also right up there with its intriguing and seductive vocal stylings. Just go and get yourself a copy of this album. If you have any interest in the progression of electronic forms of dance music, or of the evolution of African and Caribbean based dance rhythms or even if you just appreciate bass that destroys dance floors and festival crowds – get this album.