Editors' pick

Buraka Som Sistema


Editorial Review

Album review: "Komba"

The title track of Buraka Som Sistema's sophomore album, "Komba," is preceded by a spoken introduction, explaining that in the central African country of Angola, the seven days of mourning for a dead relative end with the joyful komba ceremony to celebrate the deceased's life.

Here, the celebration begins with a snare-drum groove soon joined by synthesizer burbling, party chants and video-game-like sound effects. You can witness an African tradition being Westernized and industrialized right before your very ears.

During the Angolan civil war, thousands fled the war-torn country to Portugal, their former colonial ruler. They brought with them kuduro, the dance music that was born in Luanda's shantytowns by combining samples of local hand drumming and Caribbean carnival music. In the Buraca neighborhood in Amadora near Lisbon, the refugees' children mashed the Luanda sound with Europe's microchip dance music to create "kuduro progressivo."

Buraka Som Sistema has translated this genre into seven top-40 singles in Portugal, and that success has forced the group to evolve from studio- and club-based beat makers into a real band that can play big festivals. That fuller sound, with its increased keyboardists and percussionists, is obvious on this album. Nonetheless, this is still a singles band that surrounds its dance-floor anthems with rather mechanical filler. But there's no denying the galvanizing momentum of such tracks as "(We Stay) Up All Night," "Candonga," "Hangover" and the title tune.

--Geoffrey Himes, Jan. 6, 2012