Soundway Records have spent the past five years releasing what seemed a never-ending stream of lost gems and forgotten classics from Africa and Latin America, with their Colombia compilations (Palenque Palenque, Original Sound of Cumbia, etc.) in particular getting our attention. Batida represents their second life, an album of new music inspired by the classics which they had previously put so much time unearthing.
Batida is the alias of Pedro Coquenão, a half-Angolan, half-Portuguese producer, and this is his debut album. It’s an album that focuses on his Angolan side, both taking inspiration from the styles of 1970s Angola and modern-day kuduro, of which Buraka Som Sistema have grown to become one of the biggest names. Crucially, Buraka’s music largely ignores their cultural heritage, something that Batida has noted: “I was finding lots of new urban electronic stuff, but not much that was embracing the traditional elements.”
Remedying this situation, Batida features samples of tracks from the late 60s and 70s alongside electronic beats, while also marrying the counter culture of that time (when Angola was under colonial rule) with the present day (this is a country that has only had one democratic election in the past 20 years), expressed in the contributions of MCs Sacerdote and Dama Ivone from Circuito Feixado, Bob da Rage Sense and Ikonoklasta from Luanda’s music scene, as well as Lisbon’s Ngongo.
The album is at it’s best when bringing both modern and traditional influences to the forefront, as on “Alegria”, a track which begins with a thudding house beat until snippets of melody begin to break through and a tropical guitar starts playing to stop-start rhythms; or possible album highlight “Yumbala”, a track that packs all the effervescence of high-life or soca but with a highly-energised vocal from Dama Ivone (not a million miles away from an Angolan version of Bomba Estéreo’s Liliana Saumet).
“Saudade” features one of the most recognisable hip-hop deliveries on the album, from Bob da Rage Sense, with Batida cutting up a simple guitar motif in the background, occasionally splurting out snippets of a simple Angolan ballad. It’s a track that manages to appear quite simple, while at the same time possessing a really highly-developed level of production. This is music that you will not grow tired of easily. The least arresting moments occur when the music creeps too close to standard house or dance music formulas, “Bazuka (Quem Me Rusgou)” and “Tribalismo” being the worst culprits of this, though due to the album’s restlessness this rarely feels like a problem.
It’s also this restlessness which gives the album the impression of a sound system mixtape, with tracks constantly morphing into new shapes, and vocalists and samples coming and going at free will. This suits the album well, giving it the feel of a document of Angolan culture, a night out in Luanda whenever the mood takes you.
In the same way that Soundway Records have been bringing 1960s, 70s and 80s Colombian and African music to life over the years, I think it’s fair to say that they have now done exactly the same with present-day Angolan music and culture.
By Russ Slater
Batida will be released on 26th March by Soundway Records