Portugal-based electro collective Buraka Som Sistema used to be known for their love of the frenetic, beat-intensive Angolan dance music knows as kuduro. But their sophomore disc, "Komba," encompasses everything from dancehall to hypnotic, amelodic techno. On the eve of the group's Tuesday night appearance at U Street Music Hall, João Barbosa got on the phone to talk about "Komba" (named for an Angolan mourning ritual), how Buraka Som Sistema has morphed from a disparate grouping of producers into an actual band, and whether dance music recording stars tend to go clubbing a lot in their spare time. (Spoiler alert: Yes).
You've said that all the touring you’ve done has made you feel like more of an actual band.
I think it was always present in our heads that this was a dance music producer project …When we started playing shows and put the band together, trying to make it work it, had a different aspect…We wanted to work on the record together, and we tried to extract as much out of everyone as possible and make it as personal a record as possible, instead of a record that’s based around a genre.
Does having all these producers working together mean there’s a lot of strong personalities in one room?
I hope so. [Laughs.] We kind of balance each other.
What do you think of [Montreal duo Botnek's] new remix of "(We Stay) Up All Night"?
We love it. I tried to get producers that I admire to do a version of what I do — maybe someone I had a conversation with about it. Instead of just hiring somebody, maybe [somebody] who had an idea about the song.
Is there such a thing as a bad remix? Once you hand a song over, it’s really just someone else’s interpretation, isn’t it?
Yeah. I agree with you. I guess for me, when someone can really make the elements of the song [come together]...I've heard remixes that I think are [bad], but I can understand other people liking them.
What can you tell me about the Angolan komba ritual?
It’s a ritual that happens seven days after someone passes away. People get together and pay homage to him. They get together and drink and play his favorite songs and sometimes there’s a band. We picked that concept because you end up celebrating the person and not crying for the person. It’s the irony, because it’s all the elements in your life that make for the best party in the world, but they only come together after you’re dead. [We] wanted to tell people to live that perfect party every day.
Have you ever been to one?
You started recording in the country and finished in the city. How did that affect the texture of the album?
I don’t think there was a big [impact because of] mixing city and country. But we had to get away, because we travel so much that when we’re home we feel like we have to connect with everybody, because we’re overcompensating. When we decided we needed to start making the album we had to isolate ourselves, just for the first kickstart of it.
When you're not working do you tend to go out a lot?
If you do that for a living, doesn’t going to a club feel like work?
Yeah, I know. But you end up going out. It’s sort of like what komba is. We’re trying to live our life in the best way possible…Especially when we play different cities. I love trying to figure out what’s going on, to watch the whole city in action.
Do you find yourself analyzing songs as they’re playing in clubs, listening to them [as a producer]?
Yeah. Unless I’m really drunk.