TF Archives

Buraka Som Sistema - Diamonds Are Forever

Author: Cyclone
Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Portugese kuduro group Buraka Som Sistema have been around for a few years but it’s their recent debut album Black Diamond and pairings with Mia and Diplo that have really turns heads. 3D’s Cyclone spoke with the four-piece, heading our way.

Ask any Australian music fan to name a Portuguese act and they might be stuck.
At a pinch, they may offer Canada’s Nelly Furtado. But Buraka Som Sistema, bound for the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, hope to change that.

Buraka DJ Lil’ John (AKA Joao Barbosa) laughs at the mention of Furtado. “There was a big immigration wave from Portugal to Canada, so I think she’s second generation Portuguese.”

The BSS posse, comprised of producer types Lil’ John, Riot (Rui Pite) and Conductor (Andro Carvalho) plus MC Kalaf, mine the Angolan Kuduro, a ghettofied breakbeat style with elements of hip hop, house and techno. Angola was a Portuguese colony until 1975 and Portugal harbours a significant Angolan migrant community, of which both Kalaf and Conductor are members.

Joao and Rui discovered kuduro at parties in Lisbon, the former long drawn to cutting-edge music. (Joao remembers uncovering UK drum n bass in the ’90s.)
Active since 2005, BSS have already enjoyed cult singles with YAH! and, more recently, Sound of Kuduro, featuring new ally MIA.

MIA approached BSS through mutual acquaintances. “Basically, she contacted us because she wanted to know more about kuduro. She wanted to know more about what was going on in Angola. She wanted to go to Angola and try to do a song there – something like that,” Joao says. MIA didn’t go to Angola, but they made Sound. “Eventually we all met in London and spent a night in the studio, just recording some crazy vocals – and that’s what we ended up with.”

Now BSS are the first to release an ‘artist’ album, Black Diamond, on Fabric’s label through their own Enchufuda. They sought a label that wouldn’t procrastinate in airing their music. Indeed, in the global underground, time is of the essence.

BSS specialise in party fare but Black Diamond has a political undercurrent. The title alludes to the murky nature of, not just Angola’s diamond trade, but also its corrupt oil industry. In this way, too, BSS are the latest to subvert traditional notions of ‘world music’. And they’re part of a new movement in Portugal.

“Portugal is a very boring country in terms of creative bands,” Joao says. “During the ’90s it was really hard to find a decent band who played originals, ’cause there was this wave of cover bands that were just playing Nirvana or whatever. But I think it’s getting a little bit better, possibly because kids have got access to computers and music-making software. They can just do an instrumental by themselves in their bedrooms and put whatever they want to on top of that. That ‘DIY’ concept is really helping out everyone and making things become more original and more authentic.”

Joao admits that he’s considered relocating to the UK but, as a producer, being in Lisbon gives him “different references” – something that’s allowed BSS to stand out. And Joao is curious about Australia. He’s familiar with antipodean artists, especially those on Modular. BSS have toured with Bumblebeez.

BSS usually stage a huge live show complete with percussionist but, due to overheads, they’ll travel to Australia as two DJs and an MC. Joao never imagined kuduro would take him this far. “It’s the most faraway place I’ve ever been to – definitely.”

WHO: Buraka Som Sistema
WHAT: Play Beck’s Festival Bar / St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Circular Quay / Black Diamond through Fabric / Inertia
WHEN: Friday 30 January / Sunday 8 February / Out now