In April of 2002, So Paulo, Brazil, played host to the annual Skolbeats festival, where 50,000 people witnessed the best of homegrown drum 'n' bass, techno,
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In April of 2002, So Paulo, Brazil, played host to the annual Skolbeats festival, where 50,000 people witnessed the best of homegrown drum 'n' bass, techno,

In April of 2002, São Paulo, Brazil, played host to the annual Skolbeats festival, where 50,000 people witnessed the best of homegrown drum 'n' bass, techno, trance and electronica. Legendary for their world-changing music styles, from samba to bossa nova to tropicalia, Brazilians have lately incorporated 21st-century dance production into their indigenous music, garnering praise from artists as diverse as Roni Size and Madonna. In a sense, the world is finally catching up to Brazil, a land where a spicy rhythmic sense is a national birthright, where the air steams with a groove, where small children know that dancing is as important as walking.

“Brazilians are more forward than other people,” says singer Bebel Gilberto, whose 2000 solo full-length debut, Tanto Tempo (Six Degrees), sold 500,000 copies worldwide. “They are very honest. With the energy and the weather and the way that everyone is raised, there is a lot of freedom. That is reflected in the music, and it really makes people different there.”

Daughter of famed bossa nova pioneer Joao Gilberto and singer Miúcha, Gilberto helped put Brazilian music back in the spotlight with her Suba-produced album. Tanto Tempo was a bubbly potion of traditional Brazilian styles paired with Suba's contemporary electronic production; his own São Paolo Confessions (Ziriguiboom, 1999) introduced a masterful new voice to the electronic landscape before his untimely death in late 1999.

Centered in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, an evolving army of DJs and producers is putting a decidedly Brazilian bent to contemporary electronic mixes. Recent compilation CDs such as Brazil 2mil (Six Degrees, 1999), Brazilian Beats (Mr. Bongo, 2000), Glücklich, Vol. IV (Compost, 2000), Brazilified (Quango, 2001) and Chill: Brazil (Warner Bros., 2002) have included both authentic Brazilian artists and UK imitators, but Brazil's sensuous sounds are universally infectious and irresistible. Although hampered by exorbitant hardware and vinyl costs, these heirs to samba, bossa nova and tropicalia are fusing traditional rhythms with dizzying machine grooves and digital atmospheres.


On their 1999 debut, Revisited Classics (Six Degrees), Bossacucanova's DJ Marcelinho DaLua, Marcio Menescal and Alexandre Moriera mixed found sounds and bossa nova with sampled elements on an old Mac 512 Performer. The follow-up, Brasilidade (Six Degrees, 2001), went further, matching the live guitar of bossa nova legend Roberto Menescal with Pro Tools — altered arrangements.

DJ Marky, Brazil's top drum 'n' bass DJ, is also an international star, spinning more in London and Germany than in his home of São Paulo. Marco Antonio Silva's (aka Marky) intense drum 'n' bass remixes of songs by Jorge Ben, Bebel Gilberto and Fernanda Porto grace his CDs Audio Architecture (SambaLoco/Trama, 2000) and Movement: The Brazilian Job (Streetbeat, 2002). Currently working on his artist debut and launching his own label, Lime & Sugar, with producer XRS, DJ Marky is a spirited soldier for Brazilian drum 'n' bass.

Whereas DJ Marky makes mixes as hard as those of Ed Rush and Optical, Wagner Borges Ribeiro de Souza, aka DJ Patife, revels in lush street sambas and blissful bossa novas. Patife's ebullient personality reflects his knack for lacing mixes with the hand percussion and funky sounds heard on DJ Patife Presents Sounds of Drum 'n' Bass (SambaLoco/Trama, 1999) and Cool Steps (SambaLoco/Trama, 2001).

An accomplished and recognized Brazilian musician who has composed more than 400 soundtracks for film and TV, Fernanda Porto's “Sambassim” is a Brazilian drum 'n' bass anthem of sorts. Porto's self-titled CD (Trama, 2002) mixes Brazilian guitars and pianos, Bible scripture, poetry and classically trained vocals and piano with drum 'n' bass beats and adventurous computer-realized arrangements.

Xerxes de Oliveria, aka XRS, is the man behind the music, lending his skills to many players on the Brazilian scene. Working with Marky and Patife as XRS Land in the late '90s, he released Sarau (SambaLoco, 2000), which included the epic production, “The Secrets of Floating Island.” XRS has remixed tracks by Everything but the Girl (“Corcovado”), Roni Size (“Lyric on My Lips”), Bebel Gilberto (“So Nice”) and Fernanda Porto (“Sambassim”).


The jury is out, even among the DJs of Rio and São Paulo, on the best way to make a track sound Brazilian. For his incredibly popular remix of Jorge Ben & Toquinho's “Carolina Carol Bela” — called “LK (Carolina Carol Bela)” — DJ Marky and XRS Land combined drum 'n' bass with tropicalia. Over a slamming beat, the song unfurls via dueling Brazilian guitars, strobing vocals and some spooky keyboard sounds.

“‘LK’ was strange tune,” Marky says. “I got a good drum sample from one of my dad's old records recorded in 1969, and XRS and I set it as the middle of a tune, but we had no idea what to do with the beginning. We thought it needed a little vocal, so we sampled Jorge Ben's vocal [from “Carolina Carol Bela”] for later in the tune, but still no intro. We also took Jorge Ben's guitar and XRS cut it up by hand, using the marks in the Roland sampler. It is one guitar, but we cut it and rearranged the notes so it played as counterpoint to itself; it sounds like two guitars. We got the '70s organ from the Roland JV1080. We also pitched up the vocal from a famous American record that I just put on 45 rpm. I cut up all the little syllables and recorded it into Logic. It sounds like a transformer move on the crossfader, but I did it manually.”

“But you can't just add some samba bass drums and guitars,” XRS warns. “It doesn't work that way. Your heart has to understand it — a couple of Brazilian samples won't do it. You have to feel it. The best way is to listen to Brazil musicians like Eumir Deodato, Egberto Gismonti, Gilberto Gil. I listened so much to that music that I began to incorporate it. I might sample drums from those artists, but like when Marky and I did ‘LK,’ we sampled all those guitars and the voice to form the chorus. We like to use a bossa nova reference, like a chord progression with a G6. But most times, we add the percussion because we like it, not because it sounds Brazilian. You can make a song sound sad with the right chords, but percussion can often make it sound more Afro if you are not careful.”


The sounds of Brazil undeniably entrance the body. “Samba is a magic rhythm,” says Bossacucanova's Moriera. “It is impossible to listen to samba and not move your body.” Samba, bossa nova and even such exotic Brazilian rhythms as maracatu, baiao, caterete and frevo work extremely well with drum 'n' bass and other electronic music.

Groove is paramount to any Brazilian track, be it blistering drum 'n' bass or sultry street samba. Porto's “Tudo de Bom,” for example, features titanic, room-rattling bass that is both atmospheric and piercingly direct. “I get that low bass from the Novation SuperNova,” Porto says. “It's a preset, but I have a special way to play the keyboard with my left hand. The keyboard is very sensitive, so I play it the same way I do the piano, which is very hard. I usually play most of the parts live, with as few loops as possible. It gives it more of a real feeling and variation. It is warmer; it is too cold if you program everything.”

DJ Patife, on the other hand, doesn't play a lick, but relies on his compression to maximize the bass tones. “The bass sounds are a long process,” he says with a sigh. “First thing, I choose the kind of sound I want from Reason or Logic. Then, we use the Focusrite Platinum Compounder for compression. After that, we send it back to Pro Tools and then give a little lowpass filter with the VST plug-in on Pro Tools. When we finish the track, everything goes to the Avalon compressor.”


The members of Bossacucanova are masters of merging organic and electronic sounds: It's all about getting the rigid electronic parts to fit with the more swinging acoustic parts. “When we use a sampled beat for eight bars, we want to find one that really swings and will match what we already have put down with Pro Tools,” Moriera says. “The sampled loop will make the electronic loop swing better. The secret is that the live sample has to swing on its own first. The electronic bit is very much a machine. The live part will not have the precision of the machine, but if you put the swing in with the machine, it will work. That is easy in Pro Tools. When you see the waveform, you can move it and match the accents. It is like painting in sound.”

On Bossacucanova's version of Antonio Carlos Jobim's classic “Surfboard,” the trio matched '60s color with '00s technology, resulting in a deeply atmospheric track rife with bizarre sounds. “For that, we played the vinyl and put a microphone in the speaker and sampled that to get more ambience into the recording. We use also natural reverb. In the '60s, the studios were very big, so the ambience was different. Today, the technology is perfect, but this same studio color is impossible to replicate. So putting parts of loops with samples can make the color of sound jazzier. We put some noise filters on vinyl samples or use the Pro Tools EQ to cut the low frequency. We record voices through the speakers, as well; we don't like the reverb off plug-ins. We are always looking for new colors.”


Brazilian sample jockeys also incorporate live musicians into their tracks. Using everything from MiniDisc to DAT recorders to humble cassette decks, they make the street sound their own. “I just traveled to Bahia, where I recorded live percussionists for some new tracks,” Patife says. “I had the track on a CD-R, and the bass player and a bongo player played to it. The track is at 175 bpm with the bongos over it. It was so tight. I didn't even have to quantize or anything. I brought it back to São Paulo and just compressed the sound a little bit from my laptop, added an arpeggio and arranged it all in the computer. The track is ‘Red Light.’ I quantized the bass so it would fit in the rhythm, and I compressed the bass and removed the unwanted frequencies. And I removed the low-end frequencies on the drums to keep them from being harsh.”

For “Bache Varadia,” Porto also hit the countryside, where she found native musicians bashing their brains out. “I recorded musicians in the street in Recife. They were playing a big Alfaia drum; it's used for playing maracatu rhythms. Their other instrument was a tarol; it is like a snare drum. It was eight percussionists playing those drums all at once. I recorded it with a small MiniDisc player; then, I dumped it into Logic and added some bongos and bells from the Korg ER-1 and hit it all with some lowpass filters and a little compression.”


Brazil may be a state of mind that can't be as easily replicated as sampling a bossa nova groove or lifting a resonant guitar lick. Upon landing in Brazil, you're instantly taken by the pulse of the street, which has the same luscious feeling as the waves pounding the beach at Ipanema or the flow of dancers in Rio's countless samba schools. Brazil is a different way of life, a different way of thinking, with a spirit that transforms their music.

“The best thing is to come down to Rio or São Paulo,” Patife adds. “Stay for a couple weeks; breathe in the city. See the way the people are on the street. Everything is colorful, and the sky is blue, and most people say this makes them happy. That is why the music sounds different. We get very angry sometimes and want to make some dark tunes for the dancefloor, but we just can't do it. We don't think hard.”

“People think that since we are Brazilian, we need to make samba tracks with Cuica and Brazilian instruments,” Marky says. “But for us, it is more about funk and putting our soul in the music. It is not about always putting samba into the music. That is like a cliché, and who wants that?”


Akai S3000XL samplers (2)
Alesis S4 Quadra synth module
Apple Mac PowerBook G4
Emagic Logic Audio Platinum 5
Roland S760 sampler
Roland JV1080 synth module
Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables
Pioneer DJM-600 mixer “I love the Pioneer because it is easy to use, and I like the effects and the EQs.”


Apple Mac G4
Avalon VT-737SP mono mic preamp/compressor/EQ
Digidesign Mbox
Digidesign Pro Tools
Emagic Logic Audio Platinum
Focusrite Platinum Compounder 2-channel dynamics processor
Native Instruments Absynth
Native Instruments Reaktor
Propellerhead Reason “I use some sounds from Reason to cut up beats and pull samples and strings, then send everything to Pro Tools, where we start and finish the tracks.”
Roland PC180 MIDI controller
Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables
Vestax PMC-46 MK2 Pro Mixer

XRS on remixing Everything but the Girl's “Corcovado”

“When Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt made ‘Corcovado,’ they used a drum 'n' bass groove, and she sang in Portuguese, so it was quite easy,” XRS says. “I didn't want to change too much — it is a classic. We took the vocal, some of the strings, the Rhodes and the drums from the Pro Tools session. For the drums, I manually inserted the pieces of audio. For filtering, I used the Roland S760 sampler and a plug-in called [Bitshift Audio] Phatmatik Pro, which is like Propellerhead ReCycle. I added some percussion to that and then started messing with the original harmony and the vocal until they agreed with each other.

“I totally redid the bass on the Roland JV1080 using a simple sine wave and played it alongside the vocal until it fit. I put the bass line one octave higher than the vocal so it would be a clear reference for the melody. When it was done, I pitched the bass back down one octave. And I made a new string sound with simple chords from the JV1080, as well, based on the original chords. Then, we increased the tempo so it would be more rhythmic. The original was around 165, so we sped it up to 175. I just reprocessed the vocals and took some of parts from the CD and added some delay lines to it to make it more atmospheric. I had to cut and splice the whole vocal because I don't like to time-stretch vocals — it makes it sound too robotic. Finally, I took each small piece of vocal and spliced it back into the rhythm using a rhythm track to guide me.”


Apple Mac Powerbook G4
Emagic Logic Audio Platinum 5
Roland S760 sampler “It has a special sound, and the filter is so sweet.”
Roland JV1080 synthesizer module rack synth
Alesis S4 Quadra synth module “I use it mainly for strings and pianos. It has more real-sounding sounds the JV1080, which I use mainly for bass lines and sounds.”
Yamaha 01V 24-channel digital console “I don't use this for mixing anymore but for applying effects and using as a patch bay to root the signal to the computer.”


Apple Mac PowerBook G4
Digidesign Digi 001 DAC
Digidesign Pro Tools
Emagic Logic Audio Platinum 5
Ensoniq ASR10 stereo 16-bit sampler
Ensoniq TS-10 Performance/Composition synthesizer workstation “I also use this for bass when I want a different sound from the Novation.”
Korg ER-1 Electribe-R Rhythm Machine “Easy to program.”
Novation SuperNova synthesizer “I love it for bass.”
Zoom Rhythmtrack 234 drum machine
Saxophone, acoustic guitar, violin, piano


Akai MPC60 “Sometimes, we use the MPC for grooves, but we also use live percussion. We record the click track, the drummer plays, and we cut and edit, but it is not very special to create. What is different is the style of music. In Brazil, we have another view of the music: It is traditional but very modern.”
Apple Mac G4
Digidesign Pro Tools
Fender Rhodes electric piano
Hammond B-3 organ
Propellerhead Reason “We like its keyboards. Very easy to program, very quick to put down.”
Roland MC-505 Groovebox “We like the filters.”
Roland S760 sampler
Tech 21/Bomb Factory SansAmp (PSA-1 plug-in amplifier for Pro Tools)