BURAKA SOM SISTEMA with A TRIBE CALLED RED and LUCIE TIC at Wrongbar (1279 Queen West), Friday (January 13), 10 pm. $15. PDR, RT, SS, TW. See listing.
When Lisbon dance music crew Buraka Som Sistema burst onto the global scene with their 2008 major label debut, Black Diamond, they suddenly found themselves the ambassadors of the Angolan club sound kuduro.
It was an awkward position to be in; only half the group is actually from Angola, and this supposedly new sound, which has existed in West Africa since the 90s, was only one aspect of their style.
"We didn't sign up for it," producer/DJ João Barbosa (aka Li'l John) admits from an airport pay phone. "It was obviously something that gave us visibility around the world, so we weren't fighting it either. If it had just been a one-record project, we could have left it at that, but to continue as a band, we had to move beyond it."
Their newest album, Komba (Enchufada/Sony), does exactly that, bringing on board a wider range of rhythms and textures while keeping the focus on their trademark high-energy Portuguese rapping. Komba also sees the group transformed from a producer-driven recording project into something closer to a real band.
"We didn't realize it at first, but after doing all this touring we had become a band. I think the first time we noticed that was when we sat down to start working on Komba. It became more personal in a way. Instead of just making beats and thinking about which vocalist would be best for it, it became more about trying to extract the best from ourselves and tell our own stories."
While it's no longer accurate to describe them as a kuduro act, the global fusion aspect so central to their appeal is still intact. As Barbosa explains, this pan-cultural mandate is the logical outcome of growing up in a city like Lisbon.
"We just try to keep things as honest as possible. Half the band is from Angola, but we feel this is a Portuguese band, and especially a band that comes from Lisbon. The Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities, like where I grew up, are concentrated in the suburbs around Lisbon. Even if you don't realize it, you absorb all these Brazilian and Angolan rhythms and ideas, and even stuff from Mozambique.
"When I went to school, my class was 50 per cent Portuguese and the rest immigrants. That's part of who I grew up to be."