Introducing… DJ Comrade

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DJ Comrade is one of the driving forces behind Xão Productions, a record label and events production company that operates in NYC and Rio de Janeiro. Focusing primarily on funk carioca (or baile funk), but mixing in all sorts of other genres, the Xão crew have thrown some hot parties in both cities, featuring many of the bigger names in the genre. Big fans of the funk ourselves, we caught up with Comrade to find out how a white boy from the Jersey shore ended up spinning and producing grimy Brazilian funk from the favelas.

Check out DJ Comrade’s special Remezcla mix, and read on….

Name: Christopher Newman aka DJ Comrade

Age: 30

Roots: Born and raised in Jersey Shore.

Where do you live now: Jersey City

Day job: Artist/Label Relations for one of the world’s largest digital distributors of independent music.

When, how and why did you start DJing? I was 16 years old and heavily into reggae music. Back then, the only way you could really get the hottest stuff was to get it on vinyl. So we’d head up to Brooklyn and pick up the latest 45’s fresh from Jamaica. I used to just make mix-tapes for myself and my crew, which led to house parties, local venues, college radio, etc. Why? Have you every made a bunch of people shake their butts all night? It’s a great feeling.

What kind of music do you spin? Nowadays I perform my own mash up/remixes live on the MPD [mini drum machine]. It’s a mix of Baile funk, hip-hop, dancehall, Miami bass, kuduro, electro thing. However, my crates are deep… lots of reggae, samba, funk, hip-hop, salsa, cumbia, reggaeton etc.  I got a banging 80’s set as well… as any DJ should.

Laptop vs. vinyl? I prefer vinyl, but I can’t do what I do without a laptop.

Current obsessions/addictions: My Akai MPD (midi drum machine), herb, and baile funk, of course.

What’s your Brazil connection? Personally, I was expanding my search for global beats, and a particular track caught my attention on a compilation of Brazilian music.  As soon as I heard the the swing of the tamborzão, the broken beats and, of course, the raw vocals of funk carioca, I was hooked.  I’ve been addicted ever since. But Brazil in general, that’s where it’s at… they really know how to party… so that’s where you’re going to hear some of the craziest beats/sounds.  Also, the funkeiros (followers of funk carioca) are extremely open and have been some of the friendliest artists/people I’ve worked with. I’ve been fortunate to have played in Brazil a few times as well (at the Tim Festival- Rio de Janeiro 2007, and at Toy Lounge with Zuzuka Poderosa in Sao Paulo – 2008).

How do funkeiros react to a gringo being so involved in their scene? Some just think we’re crazy…some remain cautious… which is expected.  Most likely because they have to be weary of “Cultural Conquistadors” looking to exploit the music/artists… without ever giving due credit, royalties etc… which is not uncommon in this game… even in Brazil.  But for the most part, they’ve greeted us (myself) with open arms… especially the Funkeiros who see the benefit of exporting Funk to the world, in order to help the movement/genre expand its fan base to a global market.  Keep in mind, a lot of these artists live day to day, show to show, each night, and most of the smaller artists I know never get paid at all. But once they see you are a genuine lover of the music/scene, and are contributing, not thieving, it’s all good.  Over the years, I’ve become close with a few MCs/DJs down there… we chat everyday, and they’re the nicest people in the world.

What is Xão Productions? Xão Productions was born in 2007. It’s a production company and International Independent label based in New York City and Rio De Janeiro, Brasil.   Xão consists of myself, Kokos Kypros & Chaach (one of the best producers out now) in NYC, and in Brazil we work directly with artists like MC Gus, MC Dandao, DJ Amazing Clay & MC Gringo  The principle of our foundation is to promote what we call “International Baile Funk”.  We do this by blending various styles of music and cultures with the Funk template. For instance, we’ll mix Dancehall lyrics with Funk beats… or vice versa.  It helps for non-Portuguese speaking listeners and non-Brazilians in general to get into the music, making it more familiar for their ears, thus easier to get down to!

What are your current projects? I’m currently working on a mixtape with Zuzuka Poderosa. Xão is proud to announce we will be launching DJ Amazing Clay’s album in the Spring. We’ve also got some releases coming from MC Gus, MC Dandao…

…and your plans for the future? Keep promoting the Brazilian Funk… Continue to strengthen the bridge between the US and the Favelas. Oh.. and there might be a documentary on the horizon…

Anything else you’d like to add? Yes. Baile Funk has increasingly come under fire from those who deem it as ’gang’ music, or sexually depraved music promoting all sorts of debauchary, but honestly, when you look into it… Funk is a reflection of the day to day reality of those who live in the Morros (hills). Weather we agree with the message in the music or not,  the majority of Bailes (parties) are directly linked to each Communidade (community) and the reality they live in.  So until people are ready to address the social/political issues which creates these conditions… i don’t think we (as outsiders) should criticize from an ’armchair’.  Funk as a movement, is constantly fighting for its rightful place and recognition as one of Brazils newest cultural contributions to the world… right alongside Samba & Bossa Nova.   Xão Productions will do everything we can to help in this fight.

What makes someone a “cosmopolatino”? They have good taste.