Live Music + Gig Reviews

Buraka Som Sistema @ Scala, London

12 February 2009

Portuguese act Buraka Som Sistema saw their debut album Black Diamond released towards the end of 2008 with very little fanfare in the UK.

This is perhaps hard to understand when they are signed to the usually well-marketed Fabric label, have featured M.I.A.‘s vocal talents on their tracks, been championed by über-cool hip hop producer Diplo and were winners at last year’s MTV Europe Music Awards.

But think about it another way, and the lack of hype may actually have worked in their favour. Old fashioned word of mouth seems to have created the increasing buzz around João Barbosa (AKA Li’l John), Andro Carvalho (Conductor), Rui Pité (DJ Riot), and Kalaf Ângelo, which means the crowd for tonight’s gig are a lively, passionate mob who are here to enjoy themselves rather than look cool standing around with one hand on their chin in a dark corner somewhere.

Buraka Som Sistema are held up as chief exponents, or many say creators, of progressive Kuduro, which fuses African rhythms with hip hop as well as dance music. The end result is a hard-edged assault on the senses guaranteed to make asses shake and get crowds jumping and tonight showcases that sound perfectly.

Two drummers produce a dark piece of tribalism before launching into the main show proper. Two male vocalists and one female singer MC and whip up the crowd over the pounding beats, huge basslines and synth stabs that hark back to the early ’90s rave scene. The whole sound pounds you in the gut and forces you to move as its Soca/African flavours mix with touches of trance inducing dance music.

At various times references to other tracks are thrown in, for instance when one song mutates brilliantly into Snap‘s Rhythm Is A Dancer or the beats from The Prodigy‘s Breathe are used to underpin the pumped-up aural onslaught, much to the heaving crowd’s pleasure.

The band’s live energy is absolutely phenomenal throughout. The Sound Of Kuduro, the album track featuring M.I.A. (days away from the birth of her new child, she doesn’t appear tonight), stomps along at breakneck pace, with words spat out over galloping beats. Then there is the jump around, pop-edged infectiousness of Aqui Para Voces or the buzzing rave hook of Kurum. It’s lively, even at times confrontational, but above all enjoyable.

The encore sees the crowd invited up on stage en masse – reflecting the whole party vibe of the evening perfectly – before a quick rendition of the Prodigy‘s No Good (Start The Dance) brings the gig to a breathless close.

Tonight formed an education for those unfamiliar with the genre of Kuduro, or a hybrid sub-genre of it at least, and a celebration for everyone present. On the strength of this showing, word of mouth should see Buraka Son Sistema’s star ascend even higher. Enjoy the party while you can.

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More on Buraka Som Sistema
Buraka Som Sistema @ Scala, London
Buraka Som Sistema – Black Diamond