Buraka Som Sistema brings big beats to Harper#039;s Ferry May 1

by Beacon Staff • April 29, 2009

Does the word "kuduro" mean anything to you? No? Me neither, but the Portuguese, progressive kuduro techno project "Buraka Som Sistema" or BSS, sure knows what it means and wants to share it with the world.

Recent BSS performances have shown that American audiences are welcoming the foreign dance craze with resounding approval.

The group drove crowds into a rhythm-induced frenzy at this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. and will be bringing their unique mix of big beat and world music to Harper's Ferry in Allston on May 1. Opening for BSS will be 20 year old Philadelphia club phenom DJ Sega.

BSS has garnered considerable attention as the vanguard of the progressive kuduro movement in Portugal. (Kuduro is a musical style which took form in Angola in the late 1980s when MCs began mixing African percussion samples with Calypso and Soca rhythms.)

Kuduro quickly spread to the suburbs of Lisbon, Portugal, where there is a large concentration of Angolan immigrants. It was there the BSS crew honed their skills and developed their own sound.

Imagine The Chemical Brothers crafting beats in the rainforest and you'll have something close to what BSS sounds like.

Their first full studio album, iBlack Diamond/i, was released in November 2008 and featured a collaboration with world-electro-hip-hop aficionado M.I.A. on the track "Sound of Kuduro." Most songs on the album are sample heavy and feature the pulsing rhythm necessary for a good club jam.

iBlack Diamond/i is not the type of album one lays gently on the turntable for an evening of easy listening. The heavy beats and dense, techno instrumentals overtake the listener's nervous system and make it nearly impossible not to dance.

If you're not an avid fan of club music, iBlack Diamond/i may be hard to get into. It doesn't have the accessibility of the aforementioned M.I.A., but iBlack Diamond/i maintains its momentum despite being, at times, dynamically flat.

Fortunately for BSS, that doesn't matter in the club setting, where it's the louder and more beat-centric, the better. Their unique blend of standard pulsing dance rhythms and kuduro influences brings something new to the table; an exotic club cocktail that is as danceable as Daft Punk, but doesn't sound like the same old electronica you've been hearing for the past decade.

DJ Sega, a rising star on the Philadelphia club scene, will be warming up the crowd for BSS. The young turntablist has remixed everything from Nirvana, to samples from iFamily Guy/i and the Philadelphia evening news.

He has been lauded by iThe Philadelphia Inquirer/i as having "a knowledge of and enthusiasm for the finer points of music better than heads twice his age." His quirky party music will be a nice precursor to the relentless techno of BSS.

Buraka Som Sistema's North American tour is likely to establish a solid fan base among a previously untapped audience, which would be further evidence that music transcends linguistic and cultural barriers.

Who knows, the kuduro genre might not be so foreign an idea five years from now. But for the time being, audiences can count on Buraka Som Sistema to deliver a night of interesting jams that will leave them all danced-out come morning.

iThe show will begin at 8 p.m. at Harper's Ferry, 158 Brighton Ave, Allston, Mass.

/i