Buraka Som Sistema: “Black Diamond”

Just spent a few minutes online learning about a musical genre that, until a few days ago, I must admit I’d never heard of. It’s called kuduro, a combination of ballistic African percussion samples with raw, bouncing techno soundsystems and rapping, that seems to have originated in Angola and spread across the Portuguese-speaking world all the way back to Lisbon.

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Just spent a few minutes online learning about a musical genre that, until a few days ago, I must admit I’d never heard of. It’s called kuduro, a combination of ballistic African percussion samples with raw, bouncing techno soundsystems and rapping, that seems to have originated in Angola and spread across the Portuguese-speaking world all the way back to Lisbon.



Buraka Som Sistema come from the suburbs of Lisbon, and their “Black Diamond” album is a fantastically exhilarating advert for the music. Although I must admit, I’m struggling at this point to spot big differences between kuduro and a bunch of other ghetto-tech styles – Brazilian baile funk and Baltimore bounce especially, though there are plain congruities with ragga, too – that have become hip over the past few years.

I guess a big reason why these musics feel connected is the evangelical work done on their behalf by Diplo. In fact, you could crudely ascribe the fashionable ascendance of kuduro to the ongoing Diplofication of global dance music, with the availability of cheapish new technologies helping draw affinities between outlaw music-makers in incredibly disparate places.

There’s also, of course, the voracious cultural appetite of MIA, who turns up rather inevitably on “Sound Of Kuduro” here, and holds her own with various Portuguese, Angolan and Brazilian MCs – unlike Kano, who sounds a bit self-conscious on “Skank & Move” (which reminds me faintly of Basement Jaxx, incidentally; trailblazers in the exoticism of techno, I suppose). My favourite voice this morning, though, is the mightily-named Pongolove, who chants on the quite brilliant “Kalemba (Wegue-Wegue)”.

“Kalemba” begins with a sample about the Angolan diamond trade, which suggests that kuduro may act as a musical voice of the impoverished in the face of massive corporate activity. It’s interesting to see in this a sense of multinational corporations being opposed by a pan-global network of street musics – whose shared spirit of cross-pollination is equally disdainful of borders.

But maybe that’s overthinking something which is, ostensibly and highly effectively, party music. Take “Kurum”, which begins as primitive and squitty techno, then evolves into a kaleidoscopic chanted loop of uncertain provenance and has the same euphoric appeal as various things on the El Guincho album I wrote about a while back (as does “General”, actually).

By blog standards, I was hideously late in catching on to El Guincho, and I suspect I might be just as embarrassingly slow in picking up on Buraka. But what the hell: this stuff isn’t quite my speciality, but what a terrific record.

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