Over 10 years the sound of kuduro has made its way from the streets of Angola to every corner of the globe, and a key proponent of this spread has been Buraka Som Sistema. Galvanised by an MTV Europe Award, and considerable critical acclaim for first full-length album Black Diamond, 2009 should see BSS continuing where they left off last year. Impact’s James Ballard and Chris Barton met with producers DJ Riot and Lil’ John, and MC Kalaf to see what all the fuss is about.
You come from Lisbon, what’s it like? Isn’t where you come from the influence behind the name Buraka Som Sistema?
Lisbon is really cool. The weather is nice, it’s a great place to have babies and happy families! Buraka is a neighbourhood in Amadora, the biggest city in the suburbs of Lisbon. When we were growing up, being in the suburbs wasn’t a bad thing. With time there were huge buildings housing 2000 families popping up like mushrooms. It’s supposed to have high criminality but we don’t really see that. There is as much in the tourist spots, but you don’t hear about that because the authorities wouldn’t want bad publicity.
Could you explain the sound of ‘kuduro’, and how it influences BSS?
“Kud” means ass, and “uro” means hard, but you guys say it backwards! Kuduro is an electronic music style from Anglola, it was invented about 12 years ago. It was never world music, just Angolan kids trying to make dance music, and through their influences made their own techno. It has some roots influences, some samba, and some tribal rhythms, but it never started as a traditional thing. We make kuduro in Lisbon with our hip-hop, house, dubstep, d’n’b, and techno influences; we plan to do our own version of it.
I read somewhere that Angola is one of the largest petrol and diamond producers in Africa, but the population are some of the poorest on the continent. Why do you think this is?
It’s the old dilemma about Africa and America; parts of the world that were conquered and then left by themselves. A huge amount of money and resources are left, but dictatorships and military regimes are linked with the west via chains of desires, including business and trade. The money is going somewhere, but not to the people who need it.
How was the tour with MIA?
It was just 3 gigs. She came to Liberia with us, but she got busy, and we were busy writing the album too, so to synchronise both agendas was really difficult. MIA really wants to break categories of style, which is great. She wants to put the spotlight on other cities, and on other waves of music too.
So how long does it take you to put together a remix?
If it’s only a re-edit like Benga and Coki’s ‘Night’, it takes like one hour! With a remix everybody will throw ideas around to get the backbone, then we may do the whipped cream the day after. We did a remix for Manu Chao but it was rejected! When you are asked to work with a completely different BPM, what can you do? It’s not the remixes but the re-edits that make BSS what it is, the way we change a song into the Buraka way about dance music. Then we can go anywhere from Benga, to AC/DC or wherever!
Your songs have remixed too. What’s your favourite?
Always the next one! We just received a remix by Drop the Lime, and that’s my favourite right now.
This is your second time to Nottingham, what did you think of Dot to Dot last year?
There was a bit of confusion, we got delayed. We had to play in a very tight DJ booth, and we are kind of chubby! I prefer it when people come to our shows to see us perform, instead of what happened at Dot to Dot where everyone was just here anyway.
You released ‘Black Diamond’ in November 2008, what are your hopes for the album?
We want to get to number 3! But no, we’re not talking about charts. This album is our calling card; take it home, get used to it, then come to our shows. It’s been working pretty well. At our shows we’ve had a bigger connection with the audience for all our songs, not just ones on our album. I don’t think its one of those albums with 3 months to live; hopefully it will grow and grow, taking everything slowly around the world.