This was a party. Buraka Som Sistema have spent the better part of a year touring all over the world, bringing their infectious, ass-shakingly awesome funk wherever they go. On this particular Friday night, the Portuguese crew turned the Biltmore into a sweaty, sexy basement dance party. If you missed it, you missed out.
DJ Sega, a young Philadelphia native, quickly kicked the party into gear. Instead of taking a place on the stage, Sega set up his tables across the dance floor, just in front of the sound booth. Having the DJ right on the edge of the floor worked well, as it felt more like a house party than a club night. Sega got the crowd moving with an impressively diverse set that incorporated chopped up bits and pieces of everything from Biggie to Nirvana, and from Beyonce to Bill Nye the Science Guy.
With the crowd sufficiently warmed up, Buraka Som Sistema took the stage around midnight. For audiences outside of Portugal and Angola, Buraka is probably the best-known example of Kuduro music, a lively and danceable Angolan genre that combines traditional African rhythms with electro, techno and hip-hop.
Buraka’s lineup included two live percussionists, a DJ and two vocalists (Conductor and Kalaf). They were also intermittently joined onstage by the absolutely entrancing Blaya, a rapper/dancer who excelled in both of her roles. When she took the mic, she sounded like a hyperactive, Portuguese M.I.A., and when she was shaking it, she reminded you where this music got its name; Kuduro (“cu duro”) means “hard ass” in Portuguese.
Although “Sound of Kuduro” (a single which, in its recorded form, features M.I.A.) was a definite highlight, it’s hard to pick moments that stood out, as the dance floor was packed, bouncing up and down through the entire show. At certain points during the show, dancers from the crowd made their way on stage and boogied with the band, who encouraged it all the way.
When these Portuguese party starters (plus a couple of Angolans) come back to town, wear comfortable shoes, get there and get down all night.