Portuguese and Portuguese-speaking (or to use the correct – and brilliant – term, “Lusophone”) music has crept into international consciousness through all kinds of diverse and fascinating routes. The nation has a cultural identity which thrives on constant and close relationship with the former colonies in Africa including Mozambique and Angola, plus the utterly unique mid-Atlantic Cape Verde Islands, but also has a constant trans-Atlantic to-and-fro with the musical powerhouse that is Brazil.
All of this leads to music that is rich and fast-evolving, and which ranges all the way from the heartbreaking Lusophone torch songs of the Fado style through crowd-pleasing international house music to a thousand raw variations of Afro-Portuguese street dance sounds that leak out into international clubs around the world.
In a first for Boiler Room, we’re broadcasting no less than three rooms full of music simultaneously from Lisbon in a Red Bull Music Academy takeover of quite staggering variety and quality. Knowing where to start might be difficult (though of course you can take in all three rooms in full as the shows reloop after the broadcast).
We urge you not to miss the hair-raisingly beautiful sounds of Mariza – not only a Fado superstar in Portugal, but simply one of the greatest voices on the planet – and the bill is jam-packed with names with international reach including Gala Drop, DJ Ride and a live set from the ever-reliable Moullinex and a whole load more. But for a taste of Lisbon at its most sweat-drenched, you absolutely need to tune into the room curated by perhaps Portugal’s biggest international underground success, Buraka Som Sistema who are curating Room 3. Lisbon journalist Rui Miguel Abreu meets the band’s Branko, to get an overview of their approach to this room, and a wider sense of BSS and their relationship to their hometown.
“Stoopid” is still resonating in our ears. This bomb of a track, a collaboration between Lisbon’s Buraka Som Sistema and world renown street artist Vhils, set the tempo for the unstoppable BSS collective in 2014 and paved the way towards 2015, a year that will begin for them in earnest with a curatorial role in the return of the Boiler Room to the Portuguese capital.
This time around, the Red Bull Music Academy takeover of the Boiler Room means that there will be three rooms fully packed with the best artists in the Portuguese music scene. One of these rooms was programmed by the Buraka guys and that has surely deep implications in what we are all about to experience – as when the Boiler Room first touched base in Portugal, Buraka were there and made history.
“We call it zouk bass”, they boasted then, premiering a new sound, lower on BPMs, deeper, more sensual, full of potential for the global dance floors. What happened around the world afterwards just proved the Buraka vision was right on the money. Now, Buraka’s Branko, Riot, Kalaf and Conductor return to the Boiler Room for a full on live take on their particular music vision. And this time they’re bringing a whole army with them, so the world had better be ready.
Behind them, meanwhile, rests a long journey that transformed Buraka from Lisbon’s best kept secret 10 years ago to a true global powerhouse, used to playing to the biggest crows in festivals all over the planet or in the best clubs, having joined a veritable international jet set of partystarters.
It all started with a simple 7”, “Yah”, released in 2006 with a connection to a platform called Red Bull Homegroove. From Buraka to the World appeared shortly afterwards and paved the way to three celebrated albums where they benefited from alliances with people like M.I.A. and Afrikan Boy: Black Diamond was released in 2008, Komba appeared 3 years later and then, late last year, came Buraka, their third full length.
As this material amassed, Branko, Riot, Conductor and Kalaf, together with Blaya – the band’s electrifying singer and dancer – built a strong reputation as one of the best live acts around, something that opened the doors of the international live circuit and took them from Russia to Dubai, from the States to South America and all over Europe effectively creating a Buraka frenzy that’s still growing.
Branko, in the middle of an incredibly busy schedule, took the time to answer some questions and reveal a bit of what they have prepared for the 21st of January.
RUI ABREU: What’s happening within the Buraka Som Sistema universe right now?
BRANKO: We released our third studio album mid 2014, so we’re still working on promoting it but as usual we use our free time to get some new ideas and ruff beats together on flights, trains and whenever we can, to start getting the next one ready, that’s enough to keep us busy!
Last time in the Boiler Room, you unveiled a new, slower sound. Any new direction for this new Boiler Room experience?
Our Boiler Room debut was a DJ set and yeah it was crazy to get all that new music out there; the reaction was amazing. This time we’re playing a full live show. It’s gonna be interesting to see the reaction to that, but mostly we’ll be playing our own tunes as we would on a normal live show. Don’t expect the start of a new genre this time, just the usual Buraka energy and loads of sweat.
“We tried to put together a snapshot of what local dance music sounds like right now”
How do you guys map out a set like this?
We spent over an hour just discussing the set list. We mostly wanna play songs that showcase us in terms of where we are right now as a band, but because our show is very physical we also tried to choose tracks that would also make sense for someone that might be home looking at their laptop. If you’ve ever been to a Buraka show you know how hard that could be.
Do you watch Boiler Room broadcasts regularly yourself, then?
We love the platform. Makes so much sense to deliver music out to people like that and we watch all the time. Some of our favourites were Addison Groove, early Oneman sets, MikeQ in NYC, Lil Silva vs Melè at Notting Hill Carnival. So many we could mention!
Can you talk about this curatorial experience and how you went about choosing the artists?
We tried to put together a snapshot of what local dance music sounds like right now in Lisbon. The city is burning with new and amazing talent so it made sense to try and have acts from various crews and locations.
We tried to cover a bit of everything that’s coming from the Afro-Portuguese musical connection, because for us that’s still one of the main reasons why this city is as special as it is and we wanted to portray that. While Cachupa Psicadelica connects the Cape Verdean music Morna to a folk approach, Bison & Squareffekt showcase a super futuristic vision of Angolan Kizomba (the most popular kind of music in Portugal right now) and Tarraxo.
Meanwhile, Soundwave-affiliated Lisbon resident Batida brings in that much needed inside-out social angle on Angolan Kuduro through more of a sampling perspective, and Nigga Fox (above) is a perfect snapshot of what’s going on in the suburbs of the city, with his unique approach and blend of Kuduro and Afro-House.
To close the night we had to call one of the Afro House ambassadors of the world, the “almost Portuguese” Djeff Afrozila, responsible for a complete change of the musical landscape in Luanda, Angola with his early residencies at Elinga Teatro, and Rastronaut, who is a key element of our own Enchufada label and resident at the legendary Hard Ass Sessions – truly a DJ’s DJ!
“We might just have to stay in our room and get our dancing shoes on!”
And can you sum up your own relationship to the city? You are on tour a lot, but I guess you’re glad to return?
Always. Lisboa is an essential part of Buraka, its like our fifth member. That’s why we never moved. Some years ago it would’ve been easier to move to London or something like that but it just never made sense. So yeah playing here us as special as living here.
What has been keeping you on your toes in terms of new music?
14 year old kids discovering Fruity Loops and making something genuinely new and different.
Finally: it’s not just your room in this RBMA Boiler Room special. Will you be checking out any of the other acts?
As much as the polite answer would be “yes”, we’re really proud of our line up and we think these are the most innovative artists the city has to offer, so please excuse our rudeness but we might just have to stay in our room and get your dancing shoes on!
Head over to the session page HERE to RSVP to this event