Contemporary Angolan-Portuguese beats issued by the ever-exemplary Soundway label.
David Katz 2012
For the last decade or so, Brighton-based Soundway Records has been introducing audiences to vintage musical delights from around the world. Specialising in quality compilations focussing on the globe’s hotter musical territories, the releases have been hand-picked by label founder Miles Cleret and a select team of deeply knowledgeable individuals, who are not only avowed vinyl crate diggers but several of whom have spent years living in the nations being investigated. Whether it be rocking Highlife from Ghana, psychedelic Juju from Nigeria, the enthralling Cumbia of coastal Colombia or the surreal Luk Thung of Thailand, Soundway has made the effort to issue material that is heavier than that put forth by rival labels, with booklets and packaging that also aims to go the extra mile in terms of delivering illuminating information. The label has also re-issued rare original albums from Ghana, Nigeria and Trinidad, but had not released anything contemporary, until now.
Batida’s self-titled album is apparently the first of many new projects that will find issue on the label, and it seems a fittingly intriguing place to start. In Lusophone parlance, ‘batida’ is one of several words for ‘beat,’ and is also the generic term for the pirate compilations one finds in Angola, the homeland of Lisbon-based DJ Mpula, the main engine behind the Batida project. The ensemble apparently evolved from Mpula’s longstanding radio show, which aimed to bridge the gap between the contemporary Angolan electronic kuduro genre and the rich musical heritage of the nation’s past.
The resultant album is presented mix-tape style, so the action never wavers. Songs like Algeria and Yumbala blend chopped electro snippets over riffs borrowed from classic Angolan kizomba and soukous tracks; add some fast-chatting Lusophone rappers, such as Ikonoklasta and Beat Laden, and you have a sound that is thoroughly modern, but which tastefully references what came before.
The only regrettable moment comes in the form of a mechanised stomp called Bazuka, which would probably sound great on a dancefloor but is a real headache on the home stereo. But the disc soon returns to form with tracks like Saudade, whose lilting guitar riff is nicely contrasted by Bob Da Rage Sense’s spitfire rap.
Even though the Angolan-Portuguese patois may baffle non-Lusophone listeners, this 35-minute excursion is a well-executed release that gains in appeal once the listener learns to navigate it. Ultimately, Batida is a fine start for Soundway’s contemporary stream of releases and augurs well for the future.