City Guide São Paulo: The Best Of The Brazilian Underground
I moved to São Paulo 14 years ago from Uberaba, a small interior city in Minas Gerais state with a lot of cowboys. São Paulo is often a hard place to be with its chaotic traffic, crowds, queues and relatively high cost of living compared to elsewhere in Brazil. There aren’t many local labels releasing music on vinyl, especially in electronic music—we only have one vinyl factory in operation at the moment, although there’s supposedly another in the works. Those who get booked to play here are mostly big techno stars, which is a shame, but a number of new producers in the city are stepping up. On the whole, the electronic music scene in São Paulo still feels young, but there’s a steady underground music scene. There’s always a concert or a free street party going on, and places like S/A, Trackers, Associação Cultural Cecília and Hotel Bar support smaller artists.
This band was founded in São Paulo in 1983 and still plays sporadic shows around the city in several different configurations. Their 1987 album Corredor Polonês is particularly dope. In less than half an hour, it brings together such diverse elements that to call it simply “punk rock” sounds foolish. The man behind the band is Paulo Barnabé, brother of the famous musician Arrigo Barnabé. You should definitely check out this if you like good, crazy rooooock music.
Undoubtedly one of the most important musicians in São Paulo’s current scene, Mauricio Takara has played around the world and is involved in dozens of interesting musical projects. You can find so many good records from him under the as M.Takara or MundoTigre or with the bands Hurtmold and São Paulo Underground. He can make music with pretty much anything that produces noise and still sound like himself; he plays a drum set with a synth trigger on it in the video above. I was lucky enough to play a concert with him once.
São Paulo has harbored a strong rap culture for decades. Many heavy grooves have come out of the city, especially throughout the ‘90s, and Piveti’s “Sai Da Cola” is one of my favorites. His lyrics and flow are insane, and some of the material has that Judgment Nights-soundtrack kinda vibe. I don’t know if he still makes music…I heard that he had some problems with the law. In any case, his more recent recordings didn’t please me too much.
This is a recent tape from Objeto Amarelo (one of Carlos Issa’s musical incarnations) that features some kind of rhythmic noise with techno elements. This guy has been making noise for years, either alone or with bands. He currently plays guitar in a group called AUTO, which is worth checking out. He also makes some sick artwork.
These are some old recordings of Akira S. In the ‘80s, he had a post-punk group called Akira S & As Garotas Que Erraram. To be honest, I don’t know much about this guy—I just loved this record. It’s got that old Groovebox-demo-song kind of feeling to it. According to a writeup on his Bandcamp, most of Akira’s releases come from his “post-punk heydays in São Paulo in the mid-’80s” and almost half of his first vinyl outing is “a showcase of tracks from that era, unearthed cassette tapes that have been mastered and pressed to vinyl and are being brought to the public.”
For many, this is the best rap album made on Brazilian soil. I love Sabotage’s way of singing. The whole record is amazing, and the lyrics are totally unique. It was produced by Daniel Ganjaman, who worked on many important Brazilian rap records. It also sold over a million copies, which its a big thing for music that shows the harsh reality of the people who have no money. “O Rap é Compromisso” became a reference point to any and Brazilian rappers, establishing a very difficult standard to be achieved here. This video also shows a landscape of São Paulo that is not on postcards. Sadly, Sabotage was murdered in 2003.
Brazil has a tradition of good metal bands, and TEST is São Paulo’s most prolific. Its members make simple and effective death metal—no bullshit. The duo plays a lot all over the world, and if you’re lucky they’ll be in your city soon. While they’re on the road, they travel in a van loaded with gear to play on the streets of whatever city they’re in. In fact, that’s exactly how they became known: for playing in front of venues where more famous bands were giving concerts. I had the pleasure of making some “interludes” on this record.
Thingamajicks is one of the few São Paolo producers to take the risk and make a more “experimental” dance music. This is a place where most of people can’t or won’t dance if a track is devoid of “club” elements. He’s also starting to release music on tape and runs a label called Subsubtropics Records. I’ve listened to some of the upcoming releases, and I can assure you that there’s some good stuff coming.