Buraka Som Sistema (Som Sistema being Portuguese for Sound System) is a collective of four electronic music producers (DJ Riot, J-Wow, Kalaf & Conductor) who for better or worse have been saddled with the label of ‘Kuduro Ambassadors’. In short, Kuduro is a genre of dance music which began in Angola during the mid 90s and fuses western techno and house with African rhythm.
Relatively unknown on a world stage (by which I mean sheltered alternative rock listeners like myself), Buraka Som Sistema introduced their particular brand of Portuguese Kuduro to dance floors globally behind 2006 EP From Buraka to the World and 2007 LP Black Diamond. Despite Buraka’s ability to merge numerous electronic genres and sub-genres, it is their connection to Kuduro that has transfixed most media coverage.
Sophomore record Komba further exhibits Buraka’s seemingly endless influences and unwillingness to be restricted by projected marketing. The title of the album refers to an Angolan wake held 7 days after somebody passes. The celebration honours the deceased by serving his or her favourite food and drinks, and playing their favourite songs, essentially giving the departed the best party of their life after they’re dead. Komba plays as a celebration of life as the songs run together in a conscious organic manner.
The first test of any electro/dance record is how difficult is it to resist moving while listening. From opening track Eskeleto, Komba swarms you with a diverse array of electronic loops and drum patterns that will have even the most rhythmically challenged listener tapping their feet and clicking their fingers in a hopelessly uncoordinated display of appreciation.
Eskeleto serves as a grimy euro-dance, house hybrid party starter. However, to get lost in the beat would be to miss the multilingual hip-hop stylings of guest MC Afrikan Boy. Just as Buraka managed to combine political issues and dance music on Black Diamond, here Afrikan Boy gives earnest reflection over synths and bongo drums. Lyrics such as ‘When I enter this world, I enter into darkness. Travel to the UK with a heart full of dance steps. Soul full of trust and a mind full of hatred’ and ‘We pray to the sky when the answer’s in our semen’, will have you thinking twice about what you’re dancing to.
Voodoo Love is a laser-friendly slow dance, relatively speaking. The song is assisted by the smooth, tranquil and exotic vocals of Sara Tavares juxtaposed to the rhythmic rapping of Terry Lynn. Voodoo Love teases you with possible crescendos yet keeps an even tempo that captures the intangible feeling of a humid city night and a harmonious dance floor.
Lead single (We Stay) Up All Night is, at least by title, more indicative of what you might expect on a dance record. The accompanying video pays homage to the individual ritual of listening to tunes in preparation of hitting the town (is that still a relative term?). The tune itself is an up-tempo floor filler with a chorus that will be chanted at live gigs and accompanied by fist pumping adulation.
Komba is a fascinating collage of genres and cultures. Even the cover art has an interesting back story, created by Brazilian artist Stephan Doitschinoff aka Calma (check this out). Buraka Som Sistema has created something unique here in which every element is worth exploring.