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Black Diamond

Buraka Som Sistema

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Album Review

Black Diamond, the exhilarating debut full-length from Lisbon's Buraka Som Sistema, will mark many listeners' first exposure to Kuduro, an Angolan style of dance music that's attracted international attention only recently despite roots dating back to the mid-'90s. The bandmembers are more than happy to serve as musical ambassadors: after an insistent warm-up track paying homage to the genre's two capital cities ("Luanda-Lisboa"), they enlist go-to global beat superstar M.I.A., along with the pioneering DJ Znobia and a few guest MCs, for "Sound of Kuduro," an unruly but unambiguous statement of purpose whose inanely effective nursery-rhyme refrain spells out, for the benefit of bewildered Anglophones, exactly what is going on here. To judge from the evidence of this album, the sound of Kuduro overlaps liberally with almost every other globalized, urban-based 21st century sound blending elements of hip-hop and techno with regional ethnic infusions, from ragga and soca to kwaito to funk carioca and even grime. (Brazilian bailé funk is an especially pertinent reference point, given the shared language and a comparable aggressively playful vocal approach; world-traveling ghetto-funk hype man Diplo's interest in the group is another relevant clue.) To get specific, though, it's not as if BSS are purists. As originators of Kuduro's heavily electronic "progressive" strain, their cross-pollinated hybrid grooves are as restlessly varied as they are relentlessly energetic, rife with unpredictable sonic shifts and dense with all manner of aural debris (sirens, bird calls, tribal percussion, industrial splutters and squelches, vocal cut-ups) flitting through their adrenalized, hard-assed beat concoctions. Hence listeners get tracks like "IC19," which swells from a skeletal dubstep throb to full-on glowstick-ready rave keyboards to a propulsive, percussive equatorial jump-up that even slips at one point into Baltimore club-styled electro breakbeats. Or "General," which is built around a scintillating Afro-pop guitar line but somehow wends its way into gleaming filter-house territory. And the less brazenly exploratory tracks are by no means less thrilling: the bouncy "Kalemba (Wegue Wegue)," featuring Angolan MC Pongolove, and the carioca-styled "Aqui Para Vocês," with Rio's Deize Tigrona, are two of the more rousing dance cuts in recent memory. Indeed, the same could be said for the entire album. One hell of an all-embracing, boundary-defying, ghetto-blasting dance party. [Compared to the original 12-track version of the album released by Enchufada, Fabric's 2009 edition adds two infectious tracks with the MC Petty, including the group's breakout hit "Yah!," which originally appeared on the From Buraka to the World EP, as well as a grime-flavored collaboration with Kano. Unfortunately, the Fabric version also subtracts two excellent harder-edged, hip-hop-inflected tracks, "Beef" and the title cut.] ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 2006 in Lisbon, Portugal

Genre: Dance

Years Active: '00s

Buraka Som Sistema's rise as the international agents of the Angolan dance music style known as kuduro might be seen as very sudden by most. Truthfully, their rocket ride to success was a long time coming. Three of the group's members — LilJohn (b. João Barbosa), Riot (b. Rui Pité), and Kalaf (b. Kalaf Ângelo) — have been tagging along since 2002, first as part of jungle/drum'n'bass collective Cooltrain Crew, with Kalaf acting as MC and the other...
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Black Diamond, Buraka Som Sistema
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