Buraka Som Sistema Facebook
"Well, for a 20 year old kid, it's not cool," Kalaf tells Spinner. "World music is the kind of thing you see on Starbucks compilations, it's not something you kick on your iPod. However, because the playlist shuffle phenomenon, it's easy to jump from Lil Wayne to Fela Kuti. That's normal now, we grew up with that."
Indeed, where America used to be called the great melting pot, now that designation falls to the pop music of the world, where picking out an ethic music flourish -- a flamenco guitar here, a tabla there, a didgeridoo somewhere else -- can elevate a song above "sounds like everything else."
Critics have been lining up to take a piece out of dubstep, but Buraka is looking forward to its pop assimilation.
"They might say dubstep is bad, but for the rest of the world, it's just kicking!" says Kalaf. "We can't wait to see Shakira or Jennifer Lopez singing dubstep, it could happen. I really like this idea of world music even though it's a cliché. I think it's a question of understanding where the music comes from."
It's actually quite important to understand the origins of Buraka Som Sistema's style, which draws heavily from Kuduro, a hybrid sound that evolved in the mid-'90s. Angolan university students studying in Portugal discovered the then-emerging rave scene and did their best to bring it home.
"They weren't skilled producers, but they had the inspiration and created a distinct fusion with African music which eventually became Kuduro, named after the dance move which literally means 'hard ass'," says Kalaf.
Towards the mid-2000s, the style had built a modest following in the African clubs in cities like Lisbon, but Kuduro MC appearances on cheesy late night Portuguese talk shows prevented it from being accepted by the "cool kids."
"They were the kind of shows that you were ashamed to tell your friends you were watching, but eventually the Diplos and M.I.A.s of the world discovered baile funk, which has similar origins, and us kids at the time jumped on it and formed Buraka Som Sistema and we started throwing weekly club nights... which lead to festival bookings and demands for albums," he says.
The band's current album Komba features high energy house beats, vocoders, tribal drums and bounce-heavy raps, but Kalaf is puzzled when asked about his thoughts on EDM and where the band fits in with the upcoming HARD Summer Music Festival, set to touch down in Los Angeles on Aug. 3-4.
"I've never heard of this, do you mean IDM [intelligent dance music]? Why do you need to turn dance music more electronic?" he asks in shock. "I need help on that one. Will we have a Grammy category for EDM? Oh my god, that's funny. I don't know what we can do about this, I need help to get this together. I might have seen the term on A-Trak's Twitter but I thought it was a joke!"