Welcome to the Jungle… Almost

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Belem Botanica. (St. Google prayer candles coming soon.)

I’m in Belem. One of the last outposts of high-rise condos before Amazonia’s dirt roads, lush vegetation, secret knowledge, cattle ranches and soya farms define the landscape. The river itself is a ruddy, raw-umber brown. I came here for Tecno Brega. The electronic side of Brega, a sprawling genre designation that seems to include everything from melodic love songs to 85 BPM electro bangers. On the phone with DA’s general counsel Pierce last week I said it was music that not even Diplo could sell to midwestern teens- but now that I’ve started to hear a bit more, I’m not so sure. Some of it sits surprisingly well with global bass aesthetics- but the rest is Susan Sontag approved schlock. A popular production technique is to extract the main melody of a major global pop hit, & re-program it with 80’s synth presets and record with Portuguese lyrics heavy on Corazon-thematics. It sounds like shit – except when it’s amazing. Case in point below- this animated gif version is nice too. (Apparently this track is “knock off” Tecno Brega from Bahia.)

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My host here is Patricktor4, a dj who reps the Amazonian sound with his Baile Tropical parties all over Brasil. Yesterday morning we went down to the amazing Belem river-front market- think Folton Fish Market meets your favorite Botanica cooked in the Amazon. I ate river oysters, (“THAT IS VERY VERY DANGEROUS BECAUSE IT IS LIVING,” said Patrick, but yo I LOVE OYSTERS) that a mobile vendor was carrying around in a metal tin with no ice- just salt and lime in the 98 F heat. 60 cents! After a well deserved siesta we ate dinner at the mall and bounced to Club Africa! to see the Vetron aparelhagem.

magic supplies section of the market

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The aparelhagem stacks had custom air-brushed Vetron speaker grills showing you how to Faixo the V (think Rasta/ROCKAFELLA compass/ruler/diamond).  The club decor was huge “African” sculptures and fake thatch roofs and trees- essentially an oversized/huge set of grass huts. You bought tickets through a one brick gap in a grey wall. Oh, did I mention the DJ booths were stylized neon and LED laden space crafts of unknown provenance. The DJ’s wore 80’s aerobics outfits and freestyled and did call and response constantly over tracks.  Women and men alike were rocking bedazzled jeans and tops. Vetron used to just make popular mp3 mix/folder cds- but started to throw parties a couple of years ago as well. Some of the other big sounds are Super Pop, Ruby Boy and Negro Princesa. Grab some pirated copies of pirate copies of Brega cds  HERE. GOOD COPY BAD COPY DOC segment on BREGA HERE

(Sadly I only took video on the flipcam- which I can’t edit, or even really playback on my little acer netbook- but hopefully can final cut somewhere when I arrive in Kingston next thursday- JA people/homies get at me!)

Vetron SpaceShip booth

We were there for about two hours- the party hadn’t really started to jump-off and was about half empty when we left. The DJ had already played a popular brega remix of “We No Speak Americano” three times- at just about the same rate as we were finishing our ice buckets of beer. We bounced to a live Brega show in a huge warehouse space with at least tw0 hundred motorcycles outside and 5k people inside. The stage acts were boring but tucked under one of the second levels of the building was a heavy vibes, S&M leather-walled dance cave playing even worse techno but with the most outrageous fog/lazer scenario I have ever seen in such a small space. It was the opposite of a chill out room.  I lasted just long enough to shoot some video. Finally I fell asleep next to a set of new Honda motorcycles adorned with smiling, white, fake blond Brazilians.

Vetron mix cds at the market

But we still had to make it to the periphery for a private party Patrick was playing at one of those weird house/complexs that people rent for parties. Blearily I watched a Doors/Johny cash cover band while a bunch of rockers in gothy Halloween costumes danced and stood around a giant set of aquariums. I though about going for a swim, but the pool wasn’t quite warm enough. I fell asleep again,  to Kool Keith outlining his policy on bitch contact and pitch altering. Someone drove us home.

Meanwhile the police are doing some serious urban re-structuring in Rio, sending the Navy, Army and Police into a few Favelas with tanks to root out drug dealers. Watching the T.V. coverage (where they keep comparing the action to Troop De Elite) it’s not hard to understand why the Brazilian elite lives behind huge fucking walls and endless security cameras networked with endemic class/racism. Now they are parading some supposed dealers they caught around by the neck while giving an interview. I feel bad for these low level hustlers dying and defending an empire that doesn’t even make them rich. The show, Fantastico, keeps cutting to the same footage of a favela flat screen tv and hot tub as if to prove “THEY MADE ALL THIS MONEY SELLING DRUGS.” It’s complicated, and I’m no expert on the favelas that a third of Rio’s residents call home- but even with my limited language skills it is easy to tell how fucked up the reporting is in this country. Apparently when google maps came out it provided Rio police with superior aerial imagery of the favelas then what they previously had access to. They started printing out pages from google and using them to coordinate attacks. I guess that is neither here nor there- but seriously WTF. Now I’m watching huge projected google maps on the wall at police H.Q. as they discuss tactics with neon-blue bullet proof vest wearing reporters.

Hopefully at some point I’ll write up my recording sessions with Maga Bo in Salvador and my anti-fascist/historical memory libidinal economy  wheatpasting projects in Sao Paulo…. but until then Dutty Love from Brazil.


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4 Responses to “Welcome to the Jungle… Almost”

  1. MLKshake says:

    Great update and accompanying images…. space station dj box is off the chaindangler…

  2. i’ve got my space ship you can’t tell me i’m not in space.

  3. christopher says:

    I love Belem. Eat some shrimp and acai. Brega is a seriously underappreciated phenomena outside of Brasil (or even in Brasil – ask around in the south and you might get confused stares). Along with Forro Electronica and the infamous Reggae Maranhese, it’s one of the weird regional subgenres that seems more Caribbean than Brasilian proper. You might check out the portion of a documentary about copyright that featured a bit of Belem:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo2sv3jjJi8

    Obrigado e valeu!

  4. Nate says:

    what up tally? check out MPEG Streamclip when you get a chance. Convert your flipcam vids into stills/.movs/.wmvs, extract audio. Free software.

    http://www.squared5.com/