Angolan-born, Lisbon-based Afro-dance collective Buraka Som Sistema makes a
“day of the dead” style offering of the year’s spookiest, butt-shaking-est
grooves. Komba, the band’s third
album, ups the techno factor from 2008’s Black
Diamond, pushing Buraka’s infectious kuduro-samba-house-rave hybrid into
shinier, more modernistic directions.
the same time, though, the band digs deep into tradition, mining Angolan
theories of the afterlife. The first song, an insouciantly, body-moving cut
called “Eskeleto” concerns a skeleton. The second, “Komba” describes a ritual
party held seven days after a person’s death, graveside, with singing, dancing,
food and drink. A clear highlight, the song rattles with street parade snare
cadences, burbles with organs and quick-steps to a better world on chant of
“We’re setting up the komba, they cry for me, the komba, they dancing at the
komba, celebrate my life, the komba.” The komba sounds like fun. It’s a shame
you have to die for it.
Som Sistema blends a West African tradition called kuduro, a carnival music
linked to Caribbean forms like soca, with the
synth-and-strobe glamour of dance music. These two elements are mixed in
varying proportions, from the pretty-much-just-dance groove of “(We Stay) Up
All Night” to the darker, nearly dub-steppish murk of “Vem Curtir.”
the beat is a constant, kept in squiggly, staccato synth riffs and massive booming
drums. The same syncopations continue from one track to another, as they must
at the club. Songs repeat in tight, metronomically precise patterns, their
repetition reinforcing the groove. Things occasionally get a little too repetitive, as in siren-haunted,
squawk-beated “Hypnotized,” which is addictive and annoying at the same time.
disc starts and ends with its most Africa-centric material, finishing with a
very strong series of songs — “Candonga”, “Hangover (BaBaBa)” and “Macumba” –
that hitch age-old chants and polyrhythmic percussion to space age synthetic
hedonism. It’s a potent mix, one that you might well stick around post-mortem,
like the singer in “Komba,” to catch an earful of. Fortunately, you don’t have
to…at least not just yet.
“Eskeleto” “Candonga” JENNIFER