The offices of Buraka Som Sistema's Enchufada label went up in flames on Sunday night, label reps reported on social networks today, reducing the entirety of the label's back stock and merch to ashes. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
"We have no idea how the fire started and we haven't had any word from the police or fire department about it yet," Buraka's João Barbosa (a.k.a. Branko, and the founder of the label) told SPIN. Only two months ago, Enchufada had moved to new facilities in downtown Lisbon. "Because it's mainly an office building and no one actually lives in it, it took a while before anyone alerted the fire department," said Barbosa. "So almost every other office in the building was somehow affected, especially from the third floor up, where our office is located."
"The good news," he continued, "is that these days 90 percent of our lives and work is digital and happens on laptops, e-mails, scans, etc., so apart from the CD and vinyl archive, merchandising, paperwork, office gear and memorabilia, our business is still pretty much up and running."
Most of Enchufada's physical archive, however, is — literally and figuratively — toast. "We haven't been able to sit down and do a proper survey of what exactly was there," said Barbosa. "All we know is that apart from 10 Buraka Som Sistema T-shirts that I was able to recover from the ashes today, all the other merchandising and archived titles are gone. With the current situation in physical sales, the amounts of CDs and singles we've been producing were very close to initial orders and sales prospects, so right now it seems that overall merchandising was our biggest loss. We know our distributors have some backup stock of our latest releases, but some special things might have been lost forever, like early Buraka Som Sistema 7-inches, or our last copies of Buraka's first limited-edition EP, From Buraka to the World."
On a cosmic level, the fire feels a little like adding insult to injury, given the punishing effects of the European financial crisis on Portugal, which remains burdened with high unemployment and stifling austerity measures, but Barbosa remains upbeat. "The whole country is pretty much going through a hard time, and this obviously reflects in our activity as an agency and label working out of Portugal, but from the start, specially with Buraka Som Sistema, we've always aimed at an international audience as well, so luckily we've been able grow and keep on supporting music and artists that we believe in."
This week the kuduro heavyweights released the Collector's Edition Buraka Discography, a box set collecting six years of activity, including their EP From Buraka to the World, the Black Diamond and Komba albums, and the new R3W1ND – Mambos Raros, a collection of rarities, edits, and remixes. The box set's title now looks weirdly prescient: Some of that material just got a lot more collectible.