Branko – Interview

Branko – Interview

A rebel heart hungry for the world and its sounds; a vision for dance music that transcends and has meaning, ambitious and skillful, Branko (Joao Barbosa) is quite a unique breed of artist and he has embarked in a titanic quest, Atlas.

You might know him as the co-founder of Buraka Som Sistema , the Portuguese collective champions of progressive kuduro and zouk bass,  or from Enchufada  their record label; but with his first solo project “Atlas,” Branko wants even more.

Atlas – A Sound Quest

Atlas is a quest for a global sound, a journey around the world seeking new, emerging, and powerful voices to create a compendium, a hybrid of genres for the global dancefloor. It was recorded over five weeks, in five cities: Amsterdam, Cape Town, New York, São Paulo and Lisbon, with more than 20 collaborators and a blend of Afro-house, zouk bass, gqom and baile funk.

This colossal communal album brought Branko to the U.S.  Touring by himself for the first time, he visited Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Austin, Chicago and why not Dallas. Last October, thanks to Chasquis Group, we had a chance to talk before his presentation at That That.

Brando with Mr. Carmack and Nonku Phiri in Cape Town during Atlas production. Photo Credit. João Retorta. Courtesy of Magnum PR.

Brando with Mr. Carmack and Nonku Phiri in Cape Town during Atlas production. Photo Credit. João Retorta. Courtesy of Magnum PR.


Branko in his hoodie looks like one more guest, he stops, checks out the dance floor, smiles… but his eyes give him away. He has a passionate stare, he studies the crowd, takes in the vibe, and prepares.  Branko is very open about his vision; he wants nothing but electronic dance music with meaning. Yes, you read it right.

Atlas is electronic music with global roots, music from different places together mixed them as a puzzle” explains. He recalls growing up in Lisbon, thinking his music would never get out the country, yet Buraka gave him the opportunity to explore the world, creating a vice. “I think there is a monopoly in musical entertainment. That’s not the most interesting music at all for me, I’m always searching for other scenes, other cities and other vibes.”

An Ambassador, a Believer, a Seeker

Branko is an ambassador committed to his mission, “I’m trying to make something new out of things that are not obvious. If through my music people might get closer to other cultures… I’m doing my job.”

He sees the music scene very critically, and he works to do something about it. “I feel that every culture out there has to be leveled the same. There is no reason why 98% of the movies I watch come from America,” he affirms “there is no point that only a small part of the content created in the world is disseminated out as global content.” I want to take that experience to the next level, bringing in as many elements as possible but at the same time trying to put together a puzzle that is catchy enough so everyone can relate to.”

Branko is a believer, “music and art can establish a close relationship between somebody and culture they we are unfamiliar with. Just the fact that you establish a direct connection with an artist, like following an artist in social media, and has a glimpse of the city where he lives in, where he comes from. That’s important for me. One of the reasons I want to do this. I hope some idea of diversity comes out from the music I’m making. I don’t feel it was achieved, but it is the beginning of a process.”

Branko is honest and knows that he has chosen the path less traveled. “There is a different vibe in America. I guess Europe has a more diverse culture, we are different countries, we grow up listening different languages. I think my music was more like a surprise for many people in here. I had different reactions… some people not really understanding what I was playing,” he recalls with a smile “other times everybody having the time of their life.” He admits he had to adapt his sets closer to Latin vibe,” Africa is more distant.” It’s ok with him; “I’m down to be the punch bag for what we are starting.  People want to move on after what is next after EDM. It’s so pointless, clueless that whole scene.”

He is a seeker; “I’m more interested in that 16 year old kid that’s making beats in his computer with no idea that he is making something that sounds like a revolution. He is embracing everything that arrives in his bedroom through the Internet… mixed with the music his parents play in the house. That is what can change the future in a couple of years. The right sound and the right story.”

He believes in collaboration and community, “relationships with people have the biggest impact in you. You become open… you stopped thinking that the life that you live is what everyone in the planet else does…that is our biggest mistake as mankind, thinking that everybody thinks exactly as us, and everybody has the same perspective of life.” “We are all the same, but we are different at the same time… and that’s ok. That’s exactly what’s cool about mankind. Celebrate must that diversity.”

We chatted a little more about his plans for the future and how he should include a visit to South America soon. On the next months he will continue with his Atlas tour in Europe, while also getting ready for the Ten year Anniversary tour with Buraka, focus on Enchufada and maybe stepping into media. His web series “Atlas Unfolded” documenting the creative process of his record proved quite a success and is opening a new playground for this dynamic soul.

Branko started his set, and that was it. We got lost in this fusion of sounds, beats, the dance floor vibrated with voices from far, a true global dance scene, and you couldn’t help but dance.

Brando at the Atlas release party, Lisboa. Photo Credit. Jorge Vieria. Courtesy of Magnum PR

Brando at the Atlas release party, Lisboa. Photo Credit. Jorge Vieria. Courtesy of Magnum PR