Video/Gen F: Buraka Som Sistema, “Sound of Kuduro”

March 04, 2008

While putting together our Africa issue, the dudes in Buraka Som Sistema hooked us up with some footage shot of them in Angola with kuduro wizard DJ Znobia. The video was unedited and only kind of watchable, but it looks like they were holding out on us because "Sound of Kuduro" looks suspiciously familiar. In it you can see BSS with Znobia, as well as MIA (who they toured with) and others, but really it's all about the local dudes taking break-dancing to the next level. Read John McDonnell's Gen F from FADER 52 after the jump and don't try these moves unless you got health insurance.


Buraka Som Sistema and the Afro-Euro-Kuduro continuum
Story John McDonnell
Photography Guy Martin

No matter who plays London’s Fabric, the club always seems filled with hugged-up/drugged-up teenage drum & bass ravers and tourists in search of the fabled speakers underneath the dancefloor. But last summer when Buraka Som Sistema played Switch and Sinden’s Get Familiar night, it was worth dealing with such insalubrious obstacles. Halfway through their set, BSS made the entire crowd sit on the ground, then they unleashed an elephantine drum roll that propelled everyone to their feet as they launched into the next track. It was one of the most jaw-droppingly effusive club moments I’ve experienced.

Lisbon-based trio Buraka Som Sistema make kuduro music, but their particular strain has been mutated by their relationship with the past and present of Europe’s dance music. Kuduro began in Luanda, Angola’s capital city, as far back as the late ’80s, when African producers trying to make techno and house invented something entirely new. They sampled traditional carnival music like zouk from the Caribbean, as well as semba and kilapanga from Angola, arranging the sounds around a basic 4/4 kick drum. Soon MCs were rapping over the beats and its popularity spread. Kuduro arrived almost immediately in Portugal via Angolan immigrants and eventually made it to the ears of local DJ and producer Lil John. “There is nothing else in the world like kuduro,” he says. “If you go to an African club in Lisbon
it always ends in kuduro.”

Along with DJ Riot (an old production partner), Lil John got together with Conductor, an Angolan producer and MC. As Buraka Som Sistema they combined kuduro with some more contemporary influences. “Drum & bass was really big in Lisbon in ’96 or ’97, and we loved that. Now we love dubstep,” says Lil John. Although the sounds of urban London echo throughout their recent Buraka to the World EP, BSS’s breakout single “Yah!” (set to be re-released on Modular Records) recalls the bleepy techno of LFO as much as anything else. At times it seems that BSS has made good on kuduro’s original techno reproduction dreams, even if they’ve possibly done it by accident.

Buraka Som Sistema’s style pasticherie has lead to everything from tours with MIA to remixes of current dubstep anthems like Rusko’s “Cockney Thug.” It’s also being heard in both the super clubs of Europe and the streets of Luanda. “We went to Angola four weeks ago and we loved it,” says Lil John. “They knew us on the streets probably more than they do in Lisbon. It was totally crazy.”

Video/Gen F: Buraka Som Sistema, “Sound of Kuduro”