São Paulo based writer, researcher and founder of MonkeyBuzz, Ana Laura Padua explores Brazil’s electronic music scene, spotlighting the LGBTQIA+ communities, regional collectives and parties that’ve nurtured it.
Starting in the 1990s, a number of groundbreaking DJs, producers and promoters began to lay the foundation of Brazil’s iconic electronic music scene. Back then, the scene faced significant challenges such as prohibitively expensive music equipment, lack of access to the latest European electronic releases fans wanted to hear and the tradition of events sticking to one genre only.
However, despite these challenges, the club scene began to thrive with DJs focusing on pure vinyl sets with music from homegrown artists. In 1994 São Paulo became home to the legendary “Hell’s Club” – becoming the first “after hours” in Brazil, the city also saw the emergence of Lov.e Club which brought together techno, house, electro, drum N bass and Rio funk fans and Madame Satã Night Club that nurtured a thriving underground scene.
As for the key players, it is important to mention techno producer Renato Cohen, best known for the track “Pontapé, Drum’n’bass innovator DJ Marky, creator of the “Vibe” party at Lov.e Club & Lounge, acid house DJ Anderson Noise, creator of the “Noise Music” label, techno heavyweight Gui Boratto and electro-house duo Felguk.
In 2007, Gui Boratto took Brazil’s scene global with the release of ‘Chromophobia’ on German label Kompakt and it wasn’t soon after that when Gui got the call to remix Massive Attack, Wankelmut, Booka Shade and Agoria.
The growth of the underground
For a period in the 2010’s a rise in the US dollar saw many clubs and festivals unable to book international artists and they began to suffer. Like the 90s though, Brazil’s homegrown scene began to thrive with a new wave of talent emerging and Brazilian clubs such as Warung, D-Edge and Green Valley gaining prominence, including being ranked in DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs list.
In a new chapter, the underground scene has strengthened more than ever, with collectives and radio stations. Without government help, artists had to come together so that all these creative minds could get their work released. Not everyone has the money to buy equipment and live only from music – and that’s where collectives come in, uniting all of this. Here, union is strength.
House, Techno and São Paulo
It cannot be disputed that the underground House and Techno scenes, and their offshoots, have been growing rapidly in the state of São Paulo. Pioneer Capslock, VOODOOHOP, Sangra Muta, Tantša, Mamba Negra, Gop Tun, Bicuda (Campinas-SP) and Boiler Ruim (Santos-SP) are just a few of the parties responsible for strengthening this.
It should also be noted that the presence of women within the music scene was very rare at the beginning. In Sao Paulo, label and party Mamba Negra is trying to change this by bringing more female acts to the fore across all genres with DJs Laura Diaz and Carol Schutzer at the helm. Other names to shout out include Eli Iwasa, Teto Preto, Amanda Mussi, ANNA, Malka, BADSISTA, Ventura Profana and Cashu, strong women making the scene what it is today.
Mamba Negra’s parties prioritise freedom of expression, they make it clear that you can and should be whoever you want to be. This has been crucial in opening doors for people to express themselves through performance, fashion and lifestyle across marginalised communities. In Sao Paulo and beyond, Mamba Negra has been a beacon of LGBTQIA+ representation and a guiding light for other parties and labels in the country.
Another difference for today’s parties is the combination of musical genres in a single event. Mamba Negra has already hosted the band RAKTA (Post-Punk, Noise) and singer Urias (Pop, R&B), and it is quite common to have a special stage for these experiments.
Recently Ballantine’s hosted the label during the Streaming From Isolation series with Boiler Room.
COLLECTIVE AND ELECTRONIC REGIONS
Due to the pandemic, a lack of events and little help from the government, Brazil’s strength has come from its independent collectives. They are in union, creating concepts, producing events, launches and advertising, all done collaboratively. In this sense, each state has its own collectives that are strengthening the scene even further. Radio station and collective Metanol FM was one of the first initial centres that kicked this off to bring people together.
In the state of Rio de Janeiro, owing to the dominance of House and Techno, Domply and Rave RJ Support are two of the most active collectives, in addition to Coro Fundo festival and party Kode. In the Minas Gerais state capital Belo Horizonte there is MASTERplano and also the AYÔ, a collective by and for Black Brazilians. Uberlândia, located in the interior of the state, has the collective Bait and radio station Function.
Moving to the south of the country, the city of Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul) has the collectives Arruaça, TTT and Coletivo Plano. Florianópolis, which is located in Santa Catarina, has Brasa, Bateu and TROOP Project. Paraná has things happening too, with the Discoteca Odara party and the Alter Disco radio station.
Maranhão, a state in northeastern Brazil, has the parties Suja Rec, Terral and the Movimento Eletrônico Ludovicense. This is in addition to the Aconselho collective, located in the capital São Luís. And, last but not least, in the city of Manaus, in Amazonas, there is the Coletividade Úrsula.
It is well known that Brazil is going through one of the most troubled and uncertain political moments in its history. Under the current policies of the current government there is a constant threat to culture. Whether on a more general level (the transformation of the former ministry into a secretariat) or in more specific spheres (the lack of incentive, financial and moral, to artists and cultural producers), if it depends on the public authorities, those linked to art in Brazil are alone. To further complicate matters, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the cultural sector particularly hard.
Social isolation makes it impossible for many people involved in the production of events and parties to guarantee income and overcome this delicate situation. Even with these consequences, time is pressing and this calls for new ways to publicise the scene. The unity between the states is something that helps to alleviate the uncertainty of each artist in a pandemic. With that, the need arose to focus on record labels, collectives, the LGBTQIA+ alliance and people working in events to put ideas into practice. Brazil is resistance.
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