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J-WOW of Buraka Som Sistema

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

J-WOW Barbosa, one of the mastermind producers of the Portuguese group Buraka Som Sistema, takes his listeners on an electronic cultural odyssey. Recently releasing his single “Spark” off his home label Enchufada, his style of incorporating kuduro rhythms and solid bass is a present to those who know how to get down on the dance floor. J-WOW spoke SF Station from his European tour. He performs on November 6th at Public Works performing with DJ Craze, Trackademicks, and more.

SF Station (SFS): How's your tour been so far? Is it different touring alone rather than with the BSS crew?

J-WOW (J): Touring has been great and yeah it's totally different when it all depends on one person rather than a band. It's a bit more pressure, especially being exposed in front of a crowd by myself. In Buraka I have a tendency to hide behind the MCs, so getting out there myself takes more courage. Sometimes I bring Kalaf with me, the MC, also from Buraka, to make things a bit more comfortable.

SFS: The kurduro genre is slowly making its way across U.S. airwaves. Why do you think it's taken us so long to respond?

J: I don't think kuduro is meant to be the next big dance music trend, like what dubstep is right now. I think that it is and will always be an alternative, something different and irreverent. So in a way I don't agree with you on America having a slow response to kuduro, Buraka's first big North American tour was very successful with sold out shows in San Francisco, NYC and a great slot at Coachella. So I think people were opened to it from the beginning. It just takes a little bit longer to spread out because it's not on MTV every day, or on some weird reality show.

SFS: Listening to your tracks, two words that come to mind are “world” and “culture.” Has traveling internationally played a part in that?

J: Traveling around has given me a lot of will to keep on exposing interesting aspects that are present in my life and my vision of them. So in a way, yes. But my biggest inspiration still is what surrounds me in Lisbon and its unique mix of cultures. I think that's why I'm still living here. I don't want move to London and become another generic beat maker; I want to keep on showing the world what my little sort of unknown city could sound like.

SFS: You recently played Fabric solo. How was that experience?

J: I love playing Fabric. With Buraka we usually play there every 3 or 4 months, so this was kind of my first solo thing at Fabric. It's great to see that London is keeping up with what I'm doing and the place was packed with people curious with what I was going to play. I played everything, mixing kuduro and cumbia with dubstep and juke; whatever made sense.

SFS: Since you do a ton of remixes, which one has been your favorite this year?

J: I did a remix for Robyn that I really liked; it's basically a dub version of the original songs with her and her huge voice singing on top of a super simple dub-oriented beat. I loved it, but her management was expecting something more club-oriented, which I tried but couldn't do, so it got turned down. I told them to use it anyway, that I didn't want any fee. It kind of ended up becoming super popular on the free music blogs, etc., so I'm especially proud of that one.

SFS: If there's one song you could have produced this year, what would it be?

J: Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” not because I love it, but more because I think I would have done a better job in presenting the kuduro drum pattern to the world.

SFS: What's up next for you?

J: I'm wrapping up a new EP to release sometime in the beginning of 2011 and also Buraka’s next album, which we have already started working on.

SFS: Anything you're looking forward to doing in San Francisco?

J: There's a great street in San Francisco where I've spent a bunch of hours. I can't remember the name right now, but I gotta say that it has some serious sneaker shops and a Amoeba Records.

Want more? Check out J-WOW’s beats on label at