Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sub-Tropical Paradise

There's something special going on in Portugal right now. There's a handful of local producers releasing records that are receiving amazing reviews and international attention.

Yes, it's not a first for Portuguese music. We had the Paradise Called Portugal age in the mid 90's, being succesful with Underground Sound of Lisbon. We also had Buraka Som Sistema from 2006 onward.

The thing is, those two times seem to have been isolated to a single group. Right now, we seem to be receiving attention as a scene. And this time is it not connected to a local music genre, right now we are being taken seriously doing all sorts of electronic music.

Ka§par's track released on Groovement records a couple of months ago that featured myself, Infestus, contributing the keyboards.

The release in the above video was number one selling record on the week of release in various international stores. It sold out and now it's being repressed. This one, alongside Tiago's release on DFA, and Hands of Time releases were amongst some of the most internationally sucessful Portuguese records of last-year

This Portuguese "scene" isn't really anything new. It didn't suddenly appear. It's been brewing in obscurity since the 90's. It's not really a especially tight scene, because some of the key players have very little in common other than being Portuguese. There's a connection of course. Everyone plays in the same clubs. Everyone plays for the same audience. But that's a result of being a small, not so densily populated country.

A while ago there seemed to be two especially diferent things going on:
One was the result of the Lux/Frágil continuum, mainly connected to a more classic house/jack/disco sound/balearic and avant-garde/experimental sounds. Then other is the scene that came from the whole Lusophone/World music/Kuduro/Buraka/Bass side.

The thing is, despite everyone playing in the same clubs, to the same people, up until now things seemed to evolve separately. I believe that the main keyword for music made in 2010 was: "Tropical". What seems to have happened is that the people connected to the more disco/balearic scene started implementing african/tropical influences. Simultaneously, the tropical bass music scene left behind the 140bpms and progressed to a tempo (and ambience) closer to House and Techno.

As a result you get odd things like this:

One may argue that Gala Drop's inclusion of a kuduro track in the set may be a ironic move. Well perhaps. Despite that, it works.

We also have people like Photonz, that in the last few years have always made the bridge between the more classic rave and jack, and the current bass/hardcore continuum. They always played house alongside dubstep, and now UK Funky. They were one of the names associated with the "Tuga Step" (a portuguese dubstep compilation and loose group of Lisbon based DJs, that also gave birth to Octa Push and Iberian Records). Below there's a Photonz mix recorded live at Lux last year, that clearly illustrates the above argument.

Last year Iberian Records released an EP by Octa Push, that included the following track:

Toni Clean is a Lisbon based cabe-verdean MC. In that track he makes use of Portuguese creoule. That's a clear example of how is not just Buraka that is tapping into Lusophone culture, and that Lusophone bass music doesn't have to be Kuduro.

As you can see, there's certainly variety. And despite some ocasional bridges, there is not such thing as "Lusophone Dance Music" as a cohese and uniform scene. Therefore, any media coverage refering to it as the next-big-thing is essentially a construct. That said, there is amazing talent in this country, and there is nothing wrong with people using a key word to refer to it. But it's important not to make the same mistake of the past, and try to have success by the means of a temporary fad.

All of this talent, alongside recent media outlets (such as the Portuguese Fact Magazine) , and new venues with powerful soundsystems (such as Space), signify that we may again be entering a new Golden age for the Portuguese electronic music scene. Let's see how things develop in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment