These days, we see new musical collectives cropping up across underground spaces on an almost monthly basis. It makes sense, since collectivization has long been hailed as a salve for the commercialization of DIY spaces and independent record labels. For artists, forming a collective is about more than pooling resources; it offers an opportunity to expand visibility and uplift the creative vision on a wider scale. While we can’t completely dismantle the capitalist model of music production and distribution, collectives enable artists to create a coherent aesthetic vision within a capitalist framework – a crack in the wall of the often exclusive music industry.
That’s especially powerful in Latin America, where nearly impenetrable beasts like local reggaeton or Latin pop scenes make underground musical endeavors risky. With the widespread international visibility garnered by Mexican club collective NAAFI this year (they took over CDMX’s Museo Jumex and played SXSW and New York’s Red Bull Music Academy), Latin American music collectives might be more powerful than ever. For our latest collaboration with NPR’s Alt.Latino, we decided to profile 10 collectives making waves in underground spaces in Latin America.
Isabelia Herrera, Remezcla’s Music Editor, joined hosts Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd for a session exploring the local scenes these collectives are shaping. Listen to the podcast below, and be sure to follow Alt. Latino on Facebook and Twitter.
From the apocalyptic club tracks of Hiedrah to the electro cumbia rhythms of Terror Negro, here are a handful of musical collectives you should know. –Isabelia Herrera, Music Editor
Three Argentine film students with an addiction to club life found themselves in Buenos Aires. They went out dancing constantly; house, techno, cumbia nights were their favorites. But there was a hole in their routine. The music that they had discovered online had no home in the Argentine capital. They decided to give it one, naming their new party after the Spanish word for ivy, a hungry, adaptable leafy vine.
This is the story of Hiedrah, a collective that has become an important cradle of experimental electronic music for the BsAs nocturnal. “We wanted a place to liberate ourselves dancing to different rhythms, no posing,” founding member Tayhana told Remezcla of the philosophical hurdles she and members Nahuel Colazo and Yban López Ratto faced. “We had no idea how difficult it was going to be, of all the different political questions we would have to deal with. Luckily Hiedrah has been a one-way trip.”
Figuring out what it means to be a radical club in a country that just elected a conservative president is a challenge, but Hiedrah’s taken it head-on, joining forces with Uruguay’s Salviatek to coordinate future-forward tours by artists like Mexico’s Lao, Chile’s Imaabs, and Brazil’s Pininga through the region.
Upcoming projects include the collective’s first mixtape, starring its South American fam: Retumba, Imaabs, Pobvio, Lechuga Zafiro, and Moro among them. The Hiedratek fam is the protagonist of a documentary the crew is putting together.
Like its namesake, Hiedrah gets stronger the more places it has to grip. “Us being so far from where ‘things happen,’ it made us think about the necessity of sharing this beautiful risk that we take on when we make people dance from a place that is more genuine, less pretentious,” says Tayhana. “Hiedrah, just like the plant it’s named after, has its own life.” –Caitlin Donohue
Lv Ciudvd (Puerto Rico)
There’s a lot to be said for patience, but not when you’re working against the grain to push a new kind of sound. In that instance, you’re better off giving up on that nod that make never come and linking with your friends to build an establishment away from the establishment. Example? Meet Puerto Rico’s Lv Ciudvd crew.
The firm is made up of producers like Young Martino and Caleb Calloway and artists including Joyce Santana, SOU$A, Brray, Luciano, and new addition Deborah Blues – but also members who specialize in marketing, photography, video, and fashion. Its most famous link is emcee Álvaro Díaz, and the story of the rapper may be the best way to demonstrate why the collective strength of Lv Ciudvd is so important.
Díaz was expelled from school around the time that Eminem’s 8 Mile came out – a coincidence that basically sealed the deal when it came to his dedication to hip-hop. This was not an easy turn of events on the island, whose musical tastes have been dominated by reggaeton. There was no infrastructure or club circuit to support his passion. So he came together with some friends and started Lv Ciudvd. They put their backs into it. Díaz’s “Las Chicas de la Isla” was one of the turning points when it came to PR paying attention to what the crew was up to. Now the island has plenty of hip-hop, echoing the 90s glory days of Vico C. The scene is big enough to support several emergent artists, including the recently re-ignited Füete Billete.
Now, Díaz is being hailed as one of the next big things in Spanish-language hip-hop, with respect being paid by major U.S. radio DJs. But chances are he never would have gotten there without the power of his people. If he ends up hitting hard we know who we have to thank: his collective. –Caitlin Donohue
Mitel Dico (Dominican Republic)
It takes a village to support regionally under-the-radar music genres, which is the premise that Dominican collective and net label Mitel Dico was built on. The year-old group takes as its bond a mission to provide back to emergent R&B, electronic, and hip-hop voices on the island, uniting the talents of producers and emcees La Ñapa, Ce Qei, Diego Raposo, and Jordy Sánchez in the pursuit.
Fans of releases like José Alejandro’s AHH EP and the lush, spoken word-sprinkled La Ñapa mixtape República Decadente are glad for the collective’s work. The music proves the tropical, textural evolution that DR artists can bring to the sounds, even if they have existed in an orbit that is removed from the country’s currently dominant dembow, merengue, and bachata scenes.
When we asked label head Raposo about Mitel Dico’s proudest moment, he pointed to the fact that collective members were down to create República Decadente on a voluntary basis, even from opposite ends of the island. That, and the fact that its releases and live events are finding their audience.
“We’re glad to have been welcomed by our fans who have adapted and accepted the genres in which our artists are developing, which aren’t as common on the island,” he said.
If you think Mitel Dico’s knack for scouting out new DR talent sounds like that of an ace team of investigative reporters, you just discovered the collective’s origin story. Raposo says that the crew was originally drawn together in the hopes of making an online magazine. Due to logistical issues, a record label was judged to be the better choice of formats, but the central drive stayed the same, a matter of function over form when it came to working with the island innovators they had in mind. –Caitlin Donohue
Brechó Replay (Brazil)
The first thing you notice about Brechó Replay is the color. The Brazilian fashion-based collective’s editorials work an addictive, contrasting palette that keeps you scrolling through the images. After a few, you will notice that the Brechó universe is populated by gender non-conforming beauties, not to mention up-and-coming Brazilian hip-hop artists. They’re wearing outfits you would see on the most transcendent club fashionistas, presented with a high glamour aesthetic. What happens when the underground learns to represent itself slicker than the elite fashion houses that study to appropriate it?
The label began when Eduardo Costa and Gustavo Fogaroli decided that the clothes that they had been making for themselves were too good to keep between them. Their clothing line quickly amassed a following. But when Fogaroli decided to focus on other projects, Costa elected to shift focus from commercial matters to social ones, marshaling the talents of Brechó’s photographers, makeup artists, editors, and models to represent a community that is often made invisible in Brazilian media.
You can experience the fruits of the Brechó Replay labor on their immaculately curated YouTube page. (A glorious place to jump in: the Afro-futurist block party of “Mundo Negro.”)
The team has found that musicians are excellent storytellers, and as a result Brechó Replay works closely with a lineup comprised largely of female emcess: Lay, Leona, and trans rapper Mc Lin da Quebrada among them. “We produce and style singers on the Brazilian scene who show the world we live in, and who use art in their struggle to survive,” says Costa.
When asked how the team will continue to evolve together, Costa says it has to do with continuing to use their formidable editorial skills to keep their purpose fresh. “We going to continue, as a family, exploring the minutiae of fashion as it relates to the social.” –Caitlin Donohue
Guadalajara-based mami crew CyberWitches proves that you can sit around wishing there were more women and queer people leading the charge in the music and nightlife industries – or you can band together and start smashing tokenism and dude-centric lineups your own damn self.
The group banded together in February 2014 to create a collective of female-identified friends who had skills in event production, music, photography, and digital graphics. Their idea was to create multimedia party experiences, and they have hosted some of Mexico’s biggest club names, like Siete Catorce, Niño Árbol, Wasted Fates, Phynx, Grenda, the NAAFI crew, and Lil Tantrum in carefully planned club atmospheres that feature art installations and one high-tech projection lighting scheme that traced the lines of the dilapidated Guadalajaran venue where they hosted one 2015 party.
In a world where “feminazi” is thrown around like a favorite football, CyberWitches are unapologetically woman-first, stepping out in front of the online trolls to try creating a vision of what the world would look like if gender equality were real. They’re not above romantic gestures. CW did throw a Valentine’s Day event; it just happened to be a workshop on how to operate drones.
Theirs are some of the few parties in the country where you’ll see women at the door, women checking sound, women serving you drinks. And they’re not afraid to leave the club when they rage – last month’s woman-centered San Miguel de Allende gathering placed their all-female lineup at a hot springs facility.
“The experience of having created this together, of having pushed each other and done what we came to do, that makes us proud,” says CyberWitch María Pistolas, who says her coven will be expanding its reach geographically this year, and into “different topics that we are passionate about in culture and technology.” Pistolas says that everyone is welcome at the Witches’ next happening, their two-year anniversary fiestota in GDL. –Caitlin Donohue
I Need Sponsors (Argentina)
Is there an emerging artist in 2016 who hasn’t experienced this moment? You’re sitting in front of the computer, wondering how to break into the elite circle of contacts who have the power to make your music into a financially viable career. You are thinking of your next status update. It should be witty and deep, but right now all you can think about is the cash.
Roque and Franco Ferrari – the former a producer in Buenos Aires’ ambient reggaeton duo Coral Casino and the latter the mastermind of I NEED SPONSORS – had such a moment one night. To cope, they made a banner declaring “I NEED SPONSORS.” They didn’t know that the saying would hit so hard with their artistic peers. “The power of the phrase was instantaneous; it attracted everyone with the simple fact that expressing a need can make it materialize,” Franco Ferrari told Remezcla by email. Inspired, they decided to join forces to break into the industry en masse. “Teamwork makes us stronger.”
That drive to succeed had translated into a slew of releases from the two-year old group, named from that original plea. INS now includes actors, designers, producers, musicians, and photographers sworn to support the up-and-coming talent in their ranks. Their scope has gone regional – a recent release of Costa Rican artist MNTJY’s hazy collection of reggaeton covers highlights the group’s priority of supporting the genre-ambivalent sounds that haven’t yet found a home among the big labels.
Immediate goals, Ferrari said, are to expand the INS stable of artists. He feels good about the group’s future, and has maintained a sense of humor about the creative struggle. “I think the future will be brilliant, and I hope there are sponsors reading this,” said Ferrari. “I don’t want them to say later that we didn’t warn them.” –Caitlin Donohue
Terror Negro Records (Peru)
Sometimes a crew makes a scene, and sometimes a scene turns into a crew. The latter is what happened with Lima’s Terror Negro Records, an electro cumbia net label founded by Deltatron in 2010 that made official a natural link that many up-and-coming cumbia producers and DJs were feeling when the genre started inspiring renewed interest.
“We started getting together in our houses, in everyone’s bedroom studios and passing around ideas, listening to each other’s songs,” Deltatron told Remezcla.
The group’s common endeavors in the genre made releasing their work through the same label common sense, and that close working relationship led to Terror Negro’s capacity to throw bigger and bigger events for Peruvians down to dance to their machinations. Check the recent Tropical Frequencies documentary for a glimpse of dancefloors that pound with the rich aural traditions in Peruvian music (flipped slightly for a new generation).
As the label’s influence grows, so does the reach of the Terror Negro live experience. Tribilín Sound, Chakruna, Deltatron, and Loko Bono have all made recent international gigs from Brazil to Japan. And the family’s getting bigger; where Terror Negro’s sound once came specifically from Peru, they are now collaborating with more and more international artists. Deltatron says that the group’s new bootleg compilation features Mexico’s Lao, Wasted Fates, and DJ Krizis, Cali’s Turbo Sonidero, El $abor from Venezuela, Argentina’s Che Cumbe, El Mulato, Tropikhongo, and Mr. Landero, Chile’s Imaabs, Houston’s DJ Navo and Spain’s Bigote.
As tour dates pop up further away and paths continue to evolve, the group deals with individual and collective success, with strategies that may seem like verbal abuse, but are actually all love. “It’s the Peruvian way to mess with your friends: bother them until they feel worse and then tell them ‘I’m happy for you and I’m proud,'” Deltatron says. “That’s the Terror Negro way.” –Caitlin Donohue
Nación Triizy (Chile)
Right from the intro of “Dirty Dancing,” the lead track from Nación Triizy’s recently released Coco & Llanto mixtape, it should be clear that the collective is a serious component of the evolving trap scene in Chile.
The group has its roots in DownZouthKings, the group rappers CASO and Marlon Breeze participated in from 2006 to 2010. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Nación formed with emcees Paul Vaera and Ricci Motora, though Breeze had been using the name for his clothing line for years, aesthetically represented by the fashion-friendly “3€$¥” (The association is easy to spot – the colorful 3€$¥ streetwear is present in every scene of Nación Triizy’s slick music videos).
Breeze’s 2015 mixtape Le’ Trap 1 was the collective’s first official release. Since then, they’ve been busy, releasing a slew of singles and most recently, the first Nación Triizy group mixtape Coco & Llanto, which features collaborations with fellow chilena Tomasa del Real on “Menage a Trois.” Their musical sensibility is classic trap, especially considering their hood struggle thematics and heavy-lidded video presence. Yes, Nación Triizy is up on the cooking dance.
The musical Nación is still pretty young as a collective and at this point, Breeze says the group’s proudest moment is onstage, hearing the cheers from fans of their stories of trap life in rhythmic Chilean slang. “The best feeling is the good vibes of the crowd every time we’re on the stage, every comment in support, every article that comes out on the internet about our work.”
Receiving that kind of love has left the group with no plans to split up their collective strength. “We have enough songs to put out three more mixtapes,” says Breeze. “If God lets us have Nación Triizy for awhile.” –Caitlin Donohue
Lxs Grises (Mexico)
It’s a Saturday afternoon in the leafy backyard of a massive house in the southern Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacán, and Festival Lxs Grises IV is raging. Three small stages showcase noise, metal, and punk bands from across the country. One of the rooms of the house (Casa Galería, which exists to host mid-sized events like this one) is filled with DIY vendor tables, and rock babes browse patches, stickers, and shirts that will later pledge their allegiance to the sound. There is a sense of family here, and everyone keeps saying what an amazing time they’re having.
In a city as large as the Mexican capital, it can be hard to find your community, but in 2012 a group of musicians who had played together in an endlessly changing lineup of bands decided they wanted to create a more formal network for their sounds.
“We wanted to respond to the need to create spaces and independent mediums to give greater distribution to heavy and dark musical projects,” Lxs Grises member Adrián López told Remezcla. Now, its members read like a Mexican who’s who of independent rock: Annapura, Terror Cósmico, Vinnum Sabbathi, Tormentas, Los Ateos, Father Saturnus, and Weedsnake among the associated bands.
Relying mainly on word of mouth, Lxs Grises has managed to carve out an important niche for the universe of bands that they work with, collaborating with Dorados Pantanos and local peers LSDR Records to expand their reach and plant seeds for partnerships during their bands’ international tours. They’ve mostly managed to do it without major sponsorship, relying on la banda’s need for rock in its life. Albums, live sessions, concerts, tours, amazing album art — the group’s output is a one-stop shop for the rock community.
Right now, Lxs Grises is working on plans to commemorate four years of supplying DF with the heavy and dark. López says there are 50 slated shows in the works, and of course, the fifth edition of Festival Lxs Grises.
“More than pride, it’s a daily satisfaction to make a small or large difference through our art,” says López, who is also a drummer in several Lxs Grises bands. “And more than anything, with a self-run organization.” –Caitlin Donohue
Oi Mas Bass (Bolivia)
A decade ago, a bass music scene was forming in La Paz. Some of its major players decided to join forces to expand their reach. “Our national coin carries the saying: la unión hace la fuerza,” Oi Mas Bass founding member DJ Quien told Remezcla. “We decided that it was the moment to conglomerate the best of local bass in a single movement.”