Live: Buraka Som Sistema Impart Sweaty Joy At The Bowery Ballroom


Buraka Som Sistema
Bowery Ballroom
Wednesday, January 11

Better Than: A Tae-Bo workout.

Confetti shooting party-poppers, mega-blasting Super Soakers, sexually charged underagers, and plenty of ass-shaking set the tone for Buraka Som Sistema’s New York tour stop at Bowery Ballroom last night. The Portugeuse dance collective is taking the celebration aspect of its newest release, Komba, literally.

Wednesday’s show, spectacle as it was, showed more of Buraka than their current anthem and late-night party romp “We Stay Up All Night” would like to give away. (For one, no one was staying up all night tonight: I’d imagine that tonight’s crowd of teenagers, fully amped on Red Bull and bodega beers, must have had a curfew of some sorts.) From the get-go, it was clear that there’s method to Buraka’s seizure-inducing bass madness. Blaya, the group’s leading lady, clad in a galaxy-imprinted leotard and glow-in-the-dark orange lipstick, served as the group’s rabble-rouser and the night’s star, jumping her way across stage while encouraging us to rap along to quickly spat “Wegue Wegue” we could barely even clap in time to. Meanwhile, the tall, calm, and endearingly self-assured MC Kalaf played side-kick to Blaya’s continuous frenzy, swiftly stepping in to lead a chant of “Ah,” “Oh,” or “Ay,” when she needed a break from booty-bouncing. And let’s not forget Andro Carvalho, a/k/a “The Conductor,” who spent a deal of time contentedly wobbling off to the side, staunchly committed to something that looked like a fancier version of a perpetual Jazz Box.

A key component to the crazed theatrics actually lay in the background, where amid wildly catchy mosh-pit starters “Sound of Kuduro” and “Hangover,” production duo João Barbosa and Rui Pité manned the group’s pulse via knobs and a drum set, respectively, overseeing the insanity before them with zen-like euphoria. That’s not to say the shadows of the stage didn’t have it’s wilder moments. During an instrumental interlude on the tail-end of a rap-along to “Big Booty Bitches,” a crazed girl climbed her way on stage to drop it low, almost losing her pants entirely in the process. Later, a rally call for 15 back-up dancers cued about 40 uncomfortably young girls to fight their way on stage and grind up on each other. I watched both of these events through my hands, which were covering my face.

The night ended with a surprise, congo-infected renditions of “All Night Long” and “Rhythm is a Dancer” closing out the show in full sing-along glory. And despite the spurts of bass seduction and the resulting reckless abandon, the group’s desire to impart sweaty joy through their homegrown dance stylings translated best. Maybe it’s because long-standing tradition lurks behind the cultural fusion of kuduro, zouk, techno beats, and wide-eyed Portuguese raps: The theme of the night and title of Komba come from an Angolan funeral tradition in which friends and family throw a massive festival-style dance fete to celebrate the life of their passed loved one. Or maybe they’re really just this fun to be around all the time.

Critical bias: Black Diamond is the ultimate motivation album.

Random notebook dump: Can we just go ahead and ban all sexy slow-grinds at dance parties from now until forever?