Take a look at João Barbosa aka Branko walking down a street in Lisbon and you might mistake him for a slightly
Nordic-looking tourist. Yet his reality is something different – João grew up in Amadora, the biggest city on the
outskirts of Lisbon.
He recalls it as a “place where people who didn’t have a lot of money and for some reason wanted to come to
Lisbon would end up... and that created a unique melting pot of shared Portuguese-speaking experiences; which
had both great and terrible results.”
Branko lived right in the centre of it during a time of racial tensions, rising crime and the heroin epidemic - it
wasn’t the easiest experience. However, João’s surroundings provided him with a wealth of schoolmates and
neighbours not only from Portugal but also from Angola, Brazil and Mozambique, with whom he focused the
energy around them to fuel creativity and bring people together based on common musical interests. João
describes this life-affirming process with “That’s how we all started to make sense out of everything around us.”
You may have encountered Branko before without knowing it – after all, the music he describes above ended up
being the music of the widely adored collective Buraka Som Sistema. For many outside Portugal this was the first
taste of 21st-century Lisbon. Buraka Som Sistema were active 2005 to 2016, releasing four albums between 2008
and 2014. Along with a wave of artists from under-represented countries, B.S.S rode a worldwide wave receiving
mainstream success including an MTV European Music Award and extensive tours. Branko notes that Buraka Som
Sistema “represented the beginning of everything I do and stand for. It allowed me to be part of a group that was
about more than just sitting in a studio putting kick drums and snares together on some computer software. Buraka
Som Sistema became one of the voices of a generation that had a different perspective on what it meant to be from
Lisbon and we took that vision around the world and brought a whole scene with us.” He adds that B.S.S taught
him to “always be about celebrating my city and its diversity.”
This is where his second solo album “Nosso” comes in. The next chapter after ‘ATLAS’, his celebrated 2015 debut
solo album, ‘Nosso’ was recorded around the world and finalized in Lisbon, being Branko’s most ambitious solo
project to date. After a long career of collaborative work, either with his former bandmates or one-on-one
with artists such as MIA, for whom he produced for her latest album AIM and helped put her live show
together, he now puts forward an intense series of spontaneous collaborations with vocalists and musicians far
and wide. These include Brazilian Mallu Magalhães and Congolese-Canadian Pierre Kwenders & Colombian
Catalina García, where “Nosso” sums up our modern musical world, where Modern Soul, Kuduro and beyond come
together to give us new forms beyond genre and niche. Branko has found a whole community of artists to enrich his
innovative and warm sound with lyrics in Portuguese, English, Spanish and French. Branko has seen the power of
music to unite and on “Nosso” (“Ours” in Portuguese), he’s made a conscious effort as the producer to make this
record truly universal.
Of course this all goes back to his town. “Lisbon has made me realise that there are no limits to how much you can
fuse different cultures together while making music. It also made me realise that there was no way that I was ever
going to make anything relevant if I made the music that everyone else was doing around the world. It made me
think that I needed to apply my background and how specific it was into my music and make my path out of it.”
Unlike in London or New York, it is only recently through the efforts of independent labels and artists that a fuller
picture of the creative and unique scene in Portugal has been unveiled to the world.
Barbosa notes, “There is no other way for me to survive as a DJ / producer and have some sort of impact without
sounding different. Ten years ago, there were no structures, no path to success here in Portugal, no “how to”
guides, no labels, no tourists, no managers who cared; so it all had to be created and put in place.” Barbosa has
done this in many ways – creating a record label Enchufada, home not only to his projects but to an expanding
network of artists from around the world, mostly from Portuguese-speaking cultures (stay tuned for news of two

new artist albums in spring and summer 2019). His aim with the label is to push “new directions and ideas and by
breaking borders and thinking outside the perspective” of those who’ve come before them.
He’s also continued to put a regular stamp on his city with his monthly ongoing club night Na Surra in Lisbon – a
spot that has also served as a crucial place in the development of his new album, a laboratory to test his sound.
“Having our own night in Lisbon is a fundamental part of our ecosystem. It’s where we try songs, bring our favourite
DJ’s and meet up with our friends to celebrate all the music happening around us once a month. It’s a huge
privilege being able to do that and celebrate our city and also feed the ambition of younger artists too.”
It is perhaps simplest to view Branko as a kind of cultural agitator, active on many fronts besides being a recording
and touring artist. From his early days in Buraka Som Sistema, to setting up a label that provides a platform for
artists from around the world, to curating festival stages and compilations, to creating, producing and presenting his
own travel show for Portuguese national television, to recording radio for his monthly residency on NTS radio –
Branko is deeply involved in many facets of the creation and the ongoing establishment of new Portuguese music

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