Live: Buraka Som Sistema Wild Out at Le Poisson Rouge
Last night, Buraka Som Sistema proved that no one gives a shit about what you're saying if you do it with a smile on your face and a sassy female MC on stage with you. The Portuguese production crew of Lil John, Riot, Conductor, and MC Kalaf took over Le Poisson Rouge late Wednesday night, assisted by a resounding guest performance by MC Blaya (more on her to come). Also on the bill was saucy BK rapper Maluca--who opened (kind of; she did one song) and closed the night--and Que Bajo resident-DJ, Geko Jones.
It was clear from the beginning that the crowd was there to see Buraka (and seemingly, only Buraka) as the crowd of kuduro fans (and an overwhelming number of foreigners) bopped along with Jones' high-energy opening set. Soon the lights fell and a thunderous loop of percussion rolled through the room. Then came the all too familiar sounds of chains clanking and a ghostly melody kicked in--from "New Africa Pt 2"--as Kalaf and Conductor took the stage. Huge screens behind the drummers refracted images of black diamonds, light sabers, and dancers covered in paint.
Before long, a glowing face under a glowing blonde mess of curls peeked into the crowd: MC Blaya, who--decked in a hoodie, a rope of lights, and neon orange makeup--booty-danced her way on stage for "Wegue". The titular flashed on the screens as Blaya wiggled around stage, occasionally dropping into a seductive split. "I could write a hundred pages about her alone" a friend joked. All the while Kalaf incited the crowd, shouting out both "the sexy girls out there" and the Yankees, who'd just won the World Series. "We're going to show you how we do it now," he went on, warning the crowd that he'd be performing in Portuguese next. Truth is, almost no one understood anything the group said all night, but it didn't make a difference - BSS jumped and 300 of the audience jumped, BSS put their hands in the air and so did everyone else.
Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" blared over the speakers, complete with live backing from the three drum sets on stage, and the band launched into an unexpected, all-out mashup performance set, sampling the crowd-pleasing "Samir's Theme," Snap, Rage Against the Machine, Prodigy, and even a chorus of "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)". It was all a little disconcerting--Blaya's costume change alone (into a mesh leotard, sequined booty shorts, and fishnets) was enough to distract those of us who weren't already in the raging mosh pit at centerstage.
After a quick reprise of "Wegue", Buraka's night ended and a cheeky Maluca took the stage once more, adamant on finishing the set she had tried to start earlier in the evening. "SIT DOWN ON THE FLOOR" she yelled at the audience. Surprisingly enough, everyone did. "On the count of 4, get up and jump!" she commanded. And while everyone did indeed jump, most had had their fill with Buraka, and made their way towards the door, wrapping around the bar on the way to the coat check line. I couldn't help but feel bad for the girl - the venue cut off the lights, leaving her and her drummer shrouded in darkness. But she was insistent on finishing. I'm pretty sure I heard her growl--like, actually growl--over the microphone as we walked out of the bar.