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A Wave of Tropical Bass Hits Rio de Janeiro

By Gregory Scruggs, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As Jorge Ben Jor sang – and US President Barack Obama quoted in April – Brazil is a tropical country. Suitably, then, the new underground musical movement known as “tropical bass” has a growing presence in Brazil. Moreover, starting tomorrow, Rio is facing a back-to-back-to-back string of parties with a tropical bass vibe. Thursday’s Nova/Mundo, Friday’s Avalanche Tropical, and Saturday’s Way Out offer revelers three chances to check out the sound.

Announcement for the upcoming debut of Nova/Mundo at an undisclosed location in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News
Announcement for the upcoming debut of Nova/Mundo, photo by Bruno Queiroz.

For the uninitiated, tropical bass is a catchall name for bass-heavy dance music that generally originates in tropical climates. Brazil’s main contribution to the mix is funk carioca, the digital hip-hop beat that ricochets all over Rio.

Other examples include Angolan kuduro, South African kwaito, pan-Latino cumbia and reggaetón, Jamaican dancehall, Trinidadian soca, West African hip-hop, Ivorian coupé decalé, and Colombian champeta.

All of these musical styles are, in general, digitally produced – though more traditional cumbia is performed by bands – and draws heavily on hip-hop aesthetics as well as house and techno beats. Kwaito, for example, is the South African name for house music, and often features rappers in native languages like Zulu.

DJs, mostly based in North America and Europe but increasingly in South America, have started to connect the musical dots between these disparate sounds. While a variety of names have been proposed – global ghettotech and world music 2.0, for example – tropical bass has become one of the most prevalent.

If you want to catch this Afro-Latin-Caribbean sound clash, then Rio de Janeiro is the place to be for the next three nights. The plethora of options is a recent development in the city, whereas tropical bass nights have sprouted up across Europe and in major US cities.

First on the agenda is the Thursday, August 25th debut of Nova/Mundo, produced by DJs Bruno ‘La Bombacíon’ Queiroz and Philly Greg. They have arranged an eclectic spot in Lapa for a semi-private party – attendance with lista amiga only.

Cover of latest mixtape by SoundGoods, featuring cumbia sonidero from Mexico City, image courtesy of Wolfram Lange.
Cover of latest mixtape by SoundGoods, featuring cumbia sonidero from Mexico City, photo by Wolfram Lange.

As Queiroz explains, “We hope to attract a crowd that’s tired of going to expensive clubs and looking for a more relaxed, intimate party with DJs that are focused on new and excited sounds from all over the world.”

To that end, they have brought in Wolfram ‘SoundGoods’ Lange, a German DJ living in Rio who produces mixtapes of music culled from pirate CD fairs in megacities from Mexico City to Buenos Aires.

On Friday, August 26th, the traveling road show Avalanche Tropical makes a pit stop in Rio at Espaço Acústica. Featuring a coalition of São Paulo-based DJs and producers, the second Rio edition will showcase Valeo, a French DJ based in Canada who runs the Masala label.

Finally, there will be an Espaço Acústica encore on Saturday, August 27th, as La Bombacíon and bass-hungry producer Leo Justi occupy the rooftop during the always-packed Way Out.

As Rio’s (relatively mild) winter gives way to warmer temperatures, a tropical mélange is just the way to prepare for another steamy summer.

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