Rio de Janeiro’s Kafundó Records is out to show you that current Brazilian club music is much more than whatever Diplo last ripped and re-released under his own name.
The latest compilation from the label, Vol. 2, Roots and Bass Music from Brazil connects Afro-Brazilian and regional/acoustic elements with digital production and bass music. While this is the common thread between the 13 tracks, the results in of themselves are impossible to confine to one aesthetic; you’ll find rapid hip-hop verses, undeniable carioca influences, ragga, dubstep, coco, maracatu, trap mutations, arrocha, and more. Really that’s just the beginning; it’s a portrait of urban Brazil here and now, not confining the sound to just local influences but also not shying away from its deep-running roots.
I spoke with one of the creators of the label and compilation, Maga Bo, who has spent the past fifteen plus years in Rio on the ground as a producer, forever-student of Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and transplant with an indefinite return date to his home city of Seattle.
With his label mate, music researcher Wolfram Lange, Bo’s resulting project is a horizontal partnership with NY-to-the-world collective and label Dutty Artz. The compilation elaborates on an exploration of the label’s namesake Portuguese word – which has African origins and translates to an isolated or far away place. In Bo’s words: “just like in nature, the most beautiful places are oftentimes those that are the most difficult to get to, that give you the vantage point that you don’t have anywhere else.”
Taking on the not-so-small task of providing a window into contemporary Afro-Brazilian club culture, Kafundó is thankfully making it easier to experience what Bo and Wolfi have been a part of on the ground for years now.
What motivated you to start releasing Kafundó compilations?
Wolfi (Wolfram Lange)–a friend of mine for over 10 years, since we were neighbors in Rio–and I spent a lot of time together. He’s a really incredible music researcher, and he travels all over the world, as do I. We would meet all the time, and say ‘well, what do you have this time?’ He would have stuff from Nepal, Mozambique, or I would bring my stuff as well, and we would just trade music basically, and listen to it. After a year or so of just enjoying listening to music, we finally decided to put something together, and put out a compilation because we were finding so much stuff that really wasn’t in the market. People weren’t really releasing the kinda stuff we wanted to hear, the stuff that we really like.
Why did you think that Dutty Artz would make a good home for the release?
We’ve been friends with the whole Dutty Artz crew for many years, and have been a part of a lot of their events and projects. Chief Boima [from the label] just moved to Rio fairly recently, so we thought that he could be a good partner in terms of helping us with administrative stuff, press – all the nuts and bolts of putting a compilation out, because we wanted to focus more on the curation and working with the artists directly. So, as Dutty Artz was already really established and they had the whole setup going on, we kind of just plugged into that.
How did you connect with the artists on the release? Are these people you’ve been working with for a while now, or are you always on the lookout for new collaborators?
Yeah, most of them are people that we know personally; a lot of them are producers and DJs that I’ve worked with or played with in Brazil, collaborated with, or they’ve remixed my stuff or I’ve remixed their stuff. We have friendships with these people, so it’s natural to just talk to them and say ‘hey, what do you guys have going on right now? What do you have that’s new, and that you’d like to share?’ People have been really positive about it.
We also learned about a lot of new artists through research; everyone kind of knows each other and there aren’t so many outsiders. So we’re mostly just involved in the community and that’s how we find stuff.
What was your process like for securing rights to the source recordings used for the remixes?
We have one remix on here: Anitta Garybaldi remixed by FurmigaDub. He knows her, I don’t know the exact relationship, but he knows her directly; he had done that remix and she liked it. It’s interesting because there’s a lot of DJs that will work with just remixes, and it’s hard to get authorization to release stuff like that. There are a number of guys that we’re big fans of, and we wanted to release their stuff, but they don’t have anything that’s really theirs.
But the rest of this stuff is all original music, and so basically we talked to everyone on the compilation and asked them to send us stuff. Some of the tracks we already knew, like Neguedmundo’s “Chapa Coco,” which was easily my favorite track of 2014 – he released it on Soundcloud and I saw it, and told him we really wanted to release it. Each one kind of has a different story.
How has negotiating compensation played out for you?
We do a totally standard independent deal, which is 50-50. In the case of a remix we would expect – for example, with Anitta Garybaldi and FurmigaDub – we expect that they would be splitting that 50-50, because in our minds a remix is already a new song and a new work of art, so it should be 50-50 with the original sample material in general. I suppose that there could be exceptions, but that’s sort of a general guideline; so for a deal like this, it’s all 50-50 for everything.
Unfortunately this is not exactly a big money-making thing right now; we do this because we love it and we hope to make enough to cover our costs, because we spend that money on things like mastering, on art, website hosting fees, stuff like that. Hopefully we can find some licensing for some of these people.
What are the compilation artists’ personal relationships with the regional cultures they draw inspiration from?
There’s people from all over. There’s Lurdez da Luz who lives in São Paulo, she’s very much an urban hip-hop emcee, that’s her thing. The production on that particular track is by Leo Justi, he’s a DJ/producer who lives in Rio, who’s also a very urban-oriented producer; he does a lot of baile funk, trap kind of stuff. Those tracks, they have urban references that come mostly from funk, which is obviously a very Brazilian cultural manifestation.
You find the same thing in Comrade’s track, which is more of a trap type thing, it’s got this super Brazilian vibe to it. But then Sistah Mo Respect is from Rio, she’s very involved with the ragga, dub scene in the city. Neguedmundo lives in São Paulo, he’s very involved in the Afro-Brazilian cultural scene, he’s from Natal, Rio Grande do Norte and works with regional coco, maracatu, things in the northeast. All these guys are coming from this part of being urban and having this interest in digital production, and also sounds that are both international and rooted in local, regional sounds.
What are your hopes for how you see this project growing?
It’s a way to show the sound we’re excited about working with, and in the future we want to be doing more projects like working with a particular artist and doing an EP or an album, or doing remix projects where we locate the source material, work it out with the original material owners to be able to remix it, and then find some of the people on these compilations to remix that and make something new.
We hope that we can just continue putting out more and more music. We hope that as people find out about it, that they get interested in it, they follow what we’re doing, and as we release more compilations and artists, that they’ll continue to follow us and support us because we want to make more music like this.