- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2009

INDIO, CALIF. (AP) - Take note musicians: When playing the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, don’t play your album, play to your audience.

The Portuguese group Buraka Som Sistema had a massive crowd leaping in the air by the end of their performance in what was perhaps the most energized reaction of the three-day desert music fest’s first day.

The band looped in familiar bits like Snap’s “Rhythm is a Dancer” with their own little-known songs, a blend of the Angolan techno genre kuduru with international dance influences.

“Eighty percent of the people out there never heard the album before,” said 29-year-old DJ Joao Barbosa, who goes by Lil John. “So it wouldn’t make sense to do 10 songs from the album, four minutes each. The way we discovered to get people involved is to introduce little samples, little fun things, that we just throw in. That’s kind of the secret.”

The four-man group formed in 2006, naming themselves after an immigrant suburb of Lisbon (the second half of the group’s name means “sound system”). They released their first album, “Black Diamond,” last year. The album features a guest spot on the track “Sound of Kuduru” from one of Saturday night’s Coachella headliners, MIA.

Buraka is now the biggest act in their home country.

“We are pretty much the Britney Spears of Portugal right now,” said Rui Pite, 30, who goes by DJ Riot. The group’s lead vocalist, 31-year-old MC Kalaf, interrupted.

“I don’t like that,” he said. “We are the Chemical Brothers of Portugal.”

Pite nodded, saying the group is “starting something that should have started like 10 years ago,” when kuduru was first developed in Angola.

Similar to how Jamaican immigrants in London evolved dancehall reggae into dubstep and other genres, Buraka hopes to both popularize and expand on kuduru rhythms.

They’re a bit uncomfortable with being the only well-known kuduru group, though.

“We see ourselves as a dance music act,” Pite said. “We were very happy to find out that the kuduru guys in Angola don’t see us as a kuduru act.”

They’re now planning to incorporate more cultures into their sound.

“We are trying to communicate with other people, and trying to connect with other movements,” Kalaf said. “The dubstep, the Baltimore (club) sound, we want all that in our music.”

There’s plenty of time to soak it in: The group is set to launch an international tour of Japan, Europe and the United States.

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