Going Off the Beaten Track with Buraka Som Sistema

We talk to co-founder João Barbosa - aka Branko - about capturing music and life through a lens.
Buraka Som Sistema
Buraka Som Sistema © Goncalo F Santos
By Glen Ferris

The past ten or so years have been quite the journey for João Barbosa, aka Branko. Sometime between being a participant at the 2002 Red Bull Music Academy in Sao Paulo, a lecturer at the 2008 edition in Barcelona and part of the RBMA studio crew in New York this year, he’s found time to co-found Buraka Som Sistema.

Credited as the driving force behind the Lisbon-based purveyors of genre-mashing dance music (expect everything from techno and grime to dubstep and kuduro), Branko has seen the band break onto the world stage and work with the likes of M.I.A., Diplo, Santigold and many more.

Now the story of Buraka Som Sistema is being told in Off The Beaten Track, a brand-new documentary made in association with Red Bull Music Academy.

As the first full trailer for the film launches (check it out here), we talk to Branko about the band's reasons for stepping in front of the camera.

Buraka Som Sistema's new documentary Off The Beaten Track.
Off The Beaten Track © Buraka Som Sistema/Red Bull Media House

Why did you decide to make Off The Beaten Track?
“We wanted to show what Buraka is all about. What the band is, what the people are like and give a perspective on who we are. At the same time, we didn’t want to be just about us. Our whole lives we’ve all been searching and trying to enhance our musical encyclopaedia with rhythms and beats and what’s happening where and how. This film is a creative project that takes audiences on a journey from Venezuela to Angola and all these places that are making great music.”

What can audiences expect?
“It’s just a trip into our brains I guess, how we function, how we work and how we approach music in general. At the same time we expect audiences to open their minds to different and new stuff.”

Buraka Som Sistema's new documentary Off The Beaten Track.
Off The Beaten Track © Buraka Som Sistema/Red Bull Media House

The film takes you all over the world in search of inspiration; would you describe yourselves as a band on a mission?
“I guess so. The internet gives us access to everything but we tend to only focus on a few things. While the rest of the world is listening to Get Lucky, there are 5,000 kids at a rave in Venezuela dancing to something called Tuki. There’s more to the world than Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams, it’s about enlarging our musical experiences.”

Your home city of Lisbon is a melting pot of cultures and that influence is evident in your music. Would Buraka Som Sistema exist if it weren’t for all those elements coming together?
“I don’t think so. The place is filled with so much cultural and musical history that you end up stumbling on those things even if you don’t want to. We grew up with a lot of Brazilian, Angolan and Portuguese influences, but at the same time we’re in Europe so we grew up with a lot of London music and all that stuff. So when you start to make music you just throw all of that into it – at least that’s what we did.”

Off The Beaten Track will be released on the official website on October 19.

More from Red Bull Music Academy right here.

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