Buraka Som Sistema - Komba
On 'Eskeleto', the opening track of Komba, British-Nigerian MC Afrikan Boy spits the line, “When I entered this world, I entered into darkness – travelled to the UK with a heart full of dance steps” over a merciless bass line and pounding beat; summarising the second full length release from Buraka Som Sistema in one succinct line.
Voted Best Portuguese Act at the MTV EMAs in 2008, as well as picking up nominations for the same award in 2007 and 2009, the electro-kuduro collective have collaborated with M.I.A., Count and Sinden and Major Lazer over the past five years and are credited with pushing the boundaries of kuduro, a music style originally created in the 1980's by mixing upbeat Caribbean soca and calypso with the carnival rhythms of Angolan semba.
That the style has exploded, splintered into sub-genres influenced by European house, US techno, UK grime and international hip-hop and landed far beyond it's original geographic influences in thirty years, owes much to its musical DNA and global appeal but also to those who took the music from it's original source in Angola – a former Portuguese colony – four thousand miles north to Lisbon for development.
Emerging from the city's music scene in the mid-Noughties, João 'Lil' John' Barbosa, Rui 'DJ Riot' Pité and regular collaborator Angolan rapper-poet Kalaf Ângelo went on to work with hip-hop producer Andro 'Conductor' Carvalho and produce BSS début album Black Diamond, described as “one of the fiercest dance records in recent memory” by Pitchfork back in 2009.
Buraka Som Sistema's second album is darker, punchier and less bacchanal than their first, and it also proudly shows off new influences. The fidget-house and glitch on 'Tira O Pe', or the sinister bounce of title track 'Komba' both sound like they belong on a twisted Basement Jaxx tribute album - in a good way, despite the vocoder nightmare of 'Voodoo Love' in between.
Love of kuduro's carnival-esque roots shines through on occasion too. 'We Stay Up All Night', which features a chorus in English courtesy of UK vocalist Roses Gabor and verses in Portuguese from Brazilian-born MC Blaya is pure block party banger material, while Hypnotized is 100% cumbia dance-off madness. Expect remixes from Diplo imediatamente.
And where 'Hangover (Bababa)' is a skull cracker of a number, staggering between the sublime and the ridiculous with a horribly addictive chorus, 'Vem Curtir' slows down the pace to soca speed with a good few DnB drill breaks thrown in to maintain balance.
It's edgy and high octane stuff, hugely danceable if you can keep to a pounding 138bpm – kuduro's literal translation is 'hard-ass' or 'stiff bottom' - but dig past the heavy percussive elements, looping electronic samples and bitty vocals and you'll find a handful of progressive tracks with one foot in the present and one foot in the future.
The sound that Buraka Som Sistema produce might sound harsh or aggressive to some, but fans of baile-funk, reggaeton, breakbeat, ragga, dubstep and all styles in between ought to love this album for it's fast, furious and fresh qualities.
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I think we can all agree that since the split of Meet Me In St. Louis back in 2008, there’s been a very large British post-hardcore hole in our hearts. There hasn’t been a band since that have been able to cook up the same dish of utter pandemonium a record like Variations on Swing was packed with. [read more]