Buraka Blasts NYC's Bowery

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By Sofia Verzbolovskis

Photos By Andrew S. Klug

"I want everyone to kneel as close to the ground as you can," said Buraka Som Sistema's 'Conductor', Andro Carvalho, at New York's Bowery Ballroom. The track got louder and louder, faster and faster, and when Carvalho started the count--" 1..2..3..4" -- the crowd frantically jumped up and down to the sound of a throbbing bass, roaring synths, and the furious pulsating rhythms of Kuduro.


Originating in Angola and exported to the suburbs of Lisbon, Kuduro combines traditional African rhythms with techno, souk, raga and soca. But Portuguese band, Buraka Som Sistema, is taking this ground-breaking genre even further into an iconoclastic sound, which fuses African rhythms with European beats, cumbia and a healthy dose of hip hop. "Kuduro made in Angola uses elements of Angolan music and house music. We mix that with each other's cultural and musical backgrounds from Europe. It has much more elements from around the world like reggaeton, zouk, a little cumbia..." says Carvalho. The end result is a hard-edged onslaught on the senses.


Although the band has been around since 2006, their April debut album, Black Diamond, has really turned heads. With their American tour ending in New York this past Friday, Buraka showcased an outrageous four-to-the floor beat reminiscent of the early '90's rave scene. With only two turntables, two male vocalists, and one hypnotic female singer, MC Pongo Love, they whipped up the crowds over pounding beats, stimulating bass-lines and synth stabs. Genres bounced around incessantly. "Aqui Para Voces" borrowed drums of Brazilian funk, while "General" merged Afropop and Electropop. "People get the impression that they've listened to this music before because we combine so many elements and sounds from around the world." Kuduro sounds were stretched even further when, for instance, samples from Daft Punk were used along side their carnival vibes.


Buraka Som Sistema's album 'Black Diamond' is without a doubt, creating riotous dance parties throughout the world, while carrying strong political messages. The title alludes to the obscure nature of, not only Angola's diamond trade, but also the inescapable and enduring corruption in the oil industry. "Our music is a social statement... we try to let people in on the reality of life in Angola and Portugal."

Buraka Som Sistema is making music that resonates with a striking urban multiculturalism. The beats, sounds, influences and cultures transcend political boundaries and subvert the traditional notion of 'world music.' As MC Kalaf says in the song New Africas Pt 1., "Yes, you are in London, but it feels like Luanda, or Lisbon. It's ugly, and embodies the beauty of the pure and the raw."

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