Snapped: Buraka Som Sistema
The legendary Portugese electronic dance group end final US tour in NYC
This past weekend the Lisbon-based Buraka Som Sistema, celebrated 10 years as a boundary-pushing global electronic dance group and the grand finale of their US tour at Webster Hall in NYC’s East Village. The five-member outfit includes Enchufada label heads Branko and Kalaf, DJ Riot, Conductor, and Blaya, known for creating and introducing “zouk bass” to dance music and putting Lisbon on the map. The genre incorporates afro-centric influences such as zouk and Angolan kuduro into bass-heavy, booty-shaking techno beats. It’s no surprise that Diplo, who adopts these influences for his own productions, became keen on Buraka early on, collaborating with them on tracks like ‘Inna De Ghetto’ and ‘Bruk Out,’ and taking direct inspiration from their live shows for Major Lazer. Over the past 10 years, Buraka Som Sistema have released three albums: Black Diamond (2009), Komba (2011), and Buraka (2014), one EP, have played 800 shows, and won a 2008 MTV European Award for Best Portuguese Act.
After selling out major European cities like Paris and Berlin, Buraka filled Webster Hall’s main ballroom to the brim for the final show of their three-day tour. The room showcased a diverse and highly-energized crowd of passionate fans ready to dance as if in the streets during Carnival. Portugal flags rippled in the hands of fans throughout the night and when Kalaf shouted out Cape Verde and Brazil, representatives hollered back in pride.
Buraka Som Sistema gave a soulful, bootylicious, and amped-up performance. They opened the show with festive party-starter, ‘Vuvuzela’, and ended with an encore performance of ‘Hangover (BaBaBa)’. Branko mixed on the decks and Riot proved to be one of the best live drummers, while Kalaf and Conductor kept the crowd hyped and Bayla sang, gyrated, and twerked around the stage, qualifying her for the same league as performance queen, Beyonce. Alo Wala, the spunky Punjabi-Indian rapper from Chicago on tour with them came out on stage to spit bars on their collaboration ‘In A Minute.’
The group succeeded in putting on an engaging show that figuratively and literally uplifted at moments when instructing the audience to wave their flags or shirts over their heads and do certain dance moves. Kalaf also taught a fun Portuguese slang word: “sai,” meaning “get the F out!” and invited several ladies onto the stage to twerk and take selfies with the band during the encore. Before leaving the stage for the last time to wrap their legacy in the US, B.S.S. asked the audience to hold up both hands-a finger for each year-and pose behind them for an inclusive group photo.
This may be an end of an era for Buraka Som Sistema as an iconic global dance group, but their journey as a collective isn’t over. Each member will continue to work on individual projects and Enchufada will continue to release music from artists they support. They will be playing two final shows in Portugal this summer: May 7 in Porto and July 1 at the Bélem Tower in Lisbon.
Watch the 2013 documentary 'Off The Beaten Track' for more insight on the band’s career featuring exclusive interviews with collaborators M.I.A, Santigold, Skream, Diplo, and more.Laurice is the Host of The Lab NYC and manages the Brooklyn office. Follow her on Twitter for rare sassy tweets