KEXP Documentaries: The New World – Buraka Som Sistema

Hilary Harris

Hilary Harris

The latest KEXP Documentary spotlights a band from Portugal who are taking over the international dance scene with a little-known style of music called Kuduru.

Luanda, the capitol city of Angola, in the late 90’s had some of the world’s most progressive DJs and musical producers. Lots of them had hand-me-down computers and software. They were influenced by house music and techno and mixed these dance beats with samba and a native Angolan music called “Kizomba”.

This combination of styles was a new genre: Kuduru music (pronounced “Koo-doo-roo”).

Kuduru is similar to hip-hop, in that it’s not just about the music. It’s about people who have very little equipment making a lot of sound. Using just records and computers, these Kuduru artists created a whole culture of dancers, DJs, art and fashion.

The women dance very sensually in Kuduru. It’s all about shaking your groove thing. The men dance too, but it’s more like breakdancing. Both sexes do lots of gyrating and wear bright, colorful clothes.

Angola used to be a Portuguese colony. The official language of Angola, in fact, is Portuguese. And since the two countries share many cultural gifts, Kuduru spread quickly from the sun-baked streets of Luanda to the ancient cobblestone of Lisbon.

More than a decade later, long after the heyday of Kuduru in both Angola and Portugal, the band Buraka Som Sistema decided that they wanted to represent their cities by playing music from their homelands. The members of Buraka Som Systema (pronounced “Boo-rah-kah Sahm Siss-tehm-ah”) are from Portugal and Angola.

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The band play Kuduru music, but up the technology. Using the latest in computers and software, and influenced by club artists like Diplo, M.I.A. and Spank Rock, the band have brought Kuduru into the worldwide club scene.

Last year, Buraka released their first record, Black Diamond, in Portugal, and this year it’s being released worldwide. With a track featuring guest singer M.I.A. and dance beats that are edgy and warm, this band has made Kuduru the latest sound in international electronic music. And the Kuduru culture has made the transition from the streets to the stage.

KEXP Documentaries are produced by Michele Myers, with assistance from John Felthous and Leah Pogwizd. You can hear all our KEXP Docs series including: Punk Evolution, Masters of Turntablism, The Heart of Soul, Pop Goes Electronic and more in the On-Demand section of kexp.org.

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