I’ve been fortunate enough to see Buraka Som Sistema perform twice. Both times I left the dancefloor a broken man, my t-shirt ripped and drenched from in sweat, beer and whatever had been fired from the water cannons on stage, but still grinning from ear to ear. The same grin was engrained on the face of every reveller that shuffled in complete silence to the exit, as if nobody wanted to burst the bubble of complete euphoria that had engulfed the crowd over the last ninety minutes. We’d been pummelled relentlessly by some of the hardest, rawest, yet ridiculously catchy beats possible: a cocktail of beats and styles that made it physically impossible to stop jumping for the duration of Buraka’s set. To say it was quite fun would be an understatement along the lines of saying that Public Enemy were quite a significant group in the 80s.
But with the release of their sophomore record Buraka are faced once again with the sizeable challenge of how to transfer this energy to record. Their debut, Black Diamond, managed it via the considerable rush of discovering a new sound (in this case ‘kuduro’ – an Angolan dance style that literally means hard-ass) and stone cold anthems like “Kalemba (Wegue Wegue).” Komba can’t call on the same novelty value as Black Diamond but it does rely on the same basic formula that made its predecessor such a success – hard beats, catchy hooks, dope vocals.
Despite the rush of most commentators to reduce Buraka’s sound to simply ‘kuduro’, there’s always been much more to them than one musical angle. They themselves proclaim that they’re inspired by every sort of “electronic ghetto music from reggaeton to moomhalon, kizomba to grime, dirty south to dubstep.” It would appear that if it bangs, it’s in, if it doesn’t, it’s out. Simple.
It would almost be dance music by numbers, if the musical genres they draw on for inspiration weren’t so diverse. But it’s precisely Buraka’s mash-up of genres combined with textbook dance music moves (intro, beat, hook, repeat) that’s responsible for their appeal. It may not be particularly subtle, but boy is it effective.
Most of the songs here are loosely based around the concept of ‘Komba’ – an Angolan party to celebrate the life of someone a week after they’re passed away, where people dance, drink and eat in tribute to the departed. This lends a slightly voodoo feel to the album, but make no mistake, it’s all about the beats here. And they don’t disappoint, nor do they let up, for the duration of the album.
It makes Komba an album that’s unashamedly made for the dancefloor, but that can be quite hard to enjoy at home. But to say that is missing the point: much like the Komba itself, this isn’t an album made for mopping around at home to, this is an exuberant celebration of life expressed through music and movement. You can choose to be either in or your out, but let me tell you for free that you’re much better off in the inside getting down with the Buraka Som Sistema.