We See Us: Buraka Som Sistema

Buraka Som Sistema are without doubt one of Europe’s most fascinating groups, creating an original strain of electronic music by bridging world-music influence with ghetto electronic genres like reggaeton, hip-hop, kizomba and grime and aiming the brave cocktail straight at the dance floor. With three albums to their name, an MTV European Music Award, and seven charted singles, including a number one, they have a real knack of commercial appeal, whilst remaining innovative and forward-thinking.

We recently caught up with the group and discussed their feelings towards the Portugese and Angolan music scenes, on global views towards African music, and about their plans for the year ahead. Read on to find out more, and be sure to stream their new single ‘Tira o Pe’ as you go…

Could you run us through how you all came to meet and go on to make music together?
Our story is not that exciting but it goes like this: J-Wow and Riot met in high school and they had a rock band for a while. But then they got sick of rehearsals and crappy concerts and decided to pick up some second-hand samplers and jump into the production of electronic music. They wanted to become a successful production duo even called themselves, privately, “Kruder and Dorfmeister” They started to collaborate and produce for several artists from the Lisbon music scene, amongst them Kalaf, who had a record deal with an independent label. The records never hit the stores, so J-Wow and Kalaf decided to create their own record label – Enchufada. The encounter with Conductor took place little before they set their minds into kuduro sounds.

The Angolan Kuduro influence is obviously clear to see in your music; but you are known for your slight adaptation of the genre, ‘progressive Kuduro.’ Did you feel you had to slightly ‘Westernise’ Kuduro, for it to be globally appealing?
We consider ourselves a product of the social and cultural background of Lisbon and Luanda. We try to incorporate our lifestyle and what we do and listen to everyday in our songs. We don’t really think about genres. It’s all about expressing our lives in a way that the rest of the world will understand. From our perspective what appeals to the world is the fact that we just try to be honest with ourselves and reflect that in what we do. It’s all about making
thing as personal as possible! And Progressive Kuduro is a private joke from the old Myspace era that stayed until now. The media loves to point that out but the truth is – we invented the term but it doesn’t really mean anything.

Do you see much specifically Portuguese influence in your music, or is it more just African and general European traits?
We see us! We listen to each other when comes to making music. We used to ask ourselves what kind of music we do. Now after all this years shaping our sound we could just say we’re doing our own music, with influences from all over the place. Our city, other places we visited, people we met and things we listen.

Kuduro isn’t the only African genre gradually reaching a worldwide audience. Amongst others, South-African house music seems to be, to some extent, too. How far off is the possibility of African music being prominent on a global scale?
When the world starts to be more curious and adventure in terms of new art and sounds. Our minds are a bit stereotyped when it comes to consuming, usually we only like what we already know or we look for guidance in someone we trust to give us his insight. That’s why we still have charts such as billboard playing a huge role in the way we consume music. Maybe when we change our habits we can start African music going global beyond the hipster’s circuit and the world music crowd.

Has Kuduro caught on throughout Lisbon, or even throughout Portugal as a whole, or is it mainly within the areas home to many Angolan immigrants?
It’s basically the suburbs of the major Portuguese cities, places where you have a big concentration of African immigrants not necessarily Angolans.

From your experiences, how does the Angolan music market differ from other markets in Europe?
It differs 100% We do have music stores there but the piracy is insane. Artists and record labels have a system of concentrating all the sales in one day. That’s their way to be sure the album doesn’t end up on the Internet before the official release.

You’re new single ‘Tira o pe’ is set for release on Enchufada, can you talk us through the release?
We choose a less radio friendly single to put out just because the song was getting bigger and bigger in every concert since we release “Komba”. Plus we wanted to have another club track out this summer. ‘Tira o Pe’ in terms of production represent what we have being developing musically with the group – One day if we’ll give a lecture about our music journey and what we are looking for sonically we would definitely play ‘Tira o Pe’ first.

Can we catch you in the UK anytime soon?
Yes, we’re gonna play at the Parklife Festival in Manchester (June 10) and on July 29 at the Scipmylo Festival, Hackney Marshes, in London.

Could you name drop a few new artists you’ve been excited by recently?
We are on the lab at the moment so there’s not much time and mind space to listen to new artists but J-Wow’s Hard Ass Compilation (Enchufada) is on heavy rotation, plus A$AP Rocky.

And finally, any exciting plans for the rest of the year?
We are working an EP to be out this summer. We are in the zone now with a lot of fresh ideas.

‘Tira O Pe’ by Buraka Som Sistema is out now on Enchufada