South America Archives – Telekom Electronic Beats

Alex Cuba and Kenny Dope come to Berlin

Alex Cuba and Kenny Dope come to Berlin

Next Friday (March 18) sees the arrival in Berlin of some rather tropical performers for the Havana Cultura Night at Cookies. Featuring a live set from Latin Grammy winner Alex Cuba and a DJ set from Kenny Dope of Masters at Work fame, support will come form from Berlin’s very own Jazzanova and the La Regla DJ‘s.

Alex Cuba is a Cuban soul-pop performer who according to the L.A. Times "…owes more to acoustic soul men like Bill Withers and James Taylor than to the Buena Vista Social Club", whereas we hope Electronic Beats readers need no introduction to Kenny Dope and Jazzanova.

The concert is the second Havana Cultura Night to take place at Cookies and the patron of the programme is none of than out favourite broadcaster Gilles Peterson, who is working with Havana to develop and promote musical talent from South America.

Havana Cultura Night presents Alex Cuba (live), Kenny Dope (DJ set) and local support – Friday, March 18, midnight until early at Cookies, Friedrichstraße 158 – 164, Berlin-Mitte.

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Cómeme – Gonna make you sweat

Cómeme - Gonna make you sweat

This autumn European dancefloors have been graced and refreshed with the rhythm and sound of a mad south-American posse. Cómeme is the music label founded by Matias Aguayo and his Argentinian friend Gary Pimiento and it’s pretty much been blowing people’s minds all over the world ever since it evolved a couple of years ago. “Dancing is the main thing,” – they sound passionately serious when they underline this concept – “great musicians do the best music but we, the dancers, enjoy it more.” Dancing as an invaluable privilege is their motto. Undoubtedly, few performers behind the DJ booth can make you dance and sweat to such an extent (and for so long), so for those dancers and clubbers wanting to challenge their hips and feet to an intoxicating mix of house music, swing, italo disco, kwaito, techno, electro, cumbia and Colombian champeta, this is the opportunity not to be missed.

Cómeme is not just a music label with random artists and “is not just about releasing vinyls,” as Aguayo himself states “it is more about everything around releasing a vinyl.” A rich and well-structured experience that has defied the ordinary way we think about the making and distribution of music and has reinvented (or rediscovered) a different approach to clubbing and dancing. In the prevailing music industry crisis, Cómeme’s adventure shows that there are also great opportunities to search for new choices and ways.

Most of today’s club music, I think we can agree, is pretty far from exciting, and in a scene where it seems most musicians release records in order to get booked for gigs, unconventional and unpredictable artists like Matias Aguayo are a precious resource. When you meet, talk or – better yet – see him perform one of his DJ/ live sets, his musical motivation feels clearly to be about pure enjoyment, maybe even predestination, but never the money. Ten years have passed since his first emergence into the world of electronic music and the widely successful project, Closer Musik. He could have rested on these laurels and the international acclaim of the first album on Kompakt, After Love. Instead, he chose the path of reinvention, resisting getting trapped by some certain ‘profile’, and restlessly made his way from Europe to South America looking and longing for new inspiration and unfamiliar contexts that could move him and his music forward.

From the magic of ‘One Two Three (No Gravity)’ up to the catchy pop melody of ‘Rollerskate’ (one of the highlights from his last album on Kompakt Ay Ay Ay), Aguayo’s voice and productions have become a trademark for pure electronic sexiness. No wonder then that his thirst for new adventures in music and new dancing experiences made him disappointed and unsatisfied with today’s feeble music business or the hype on soulless ‘minimal techno’. A point he made quite clear, in his characteristic half-humorous half serious approach, with the giggly track ‘Minimal’, another winner on dancefloors across the world about two years ago. In it, Aguayo calls for a music with more groove and balls, “…con un ritmo mas nocturno mas profundo mas sensual…”. It’s almost a sort of anti-establishment manifesto, which has served as a blueprint for all the projects and plans leading to the creation of Cómeme.

Probably South America, a place to which Aguayo has regularly returned due to his Chilean origins and many friends there, like other cultural peripheries was the most appropriate place to realize his new dance and music dream and be free from preconceived schemes. “Especially,” Aguayo explains “because in South America dancing has a bigger tradition and is related to everyday life, not confined to just clubs or closed spaces.”Around three years ago, one night in Buenos Aires it all began by accident: Aguayo and a bunch of friends went out to dance in a club in the city, the music wasn’t really working for them and since they were for some reason carrying a ghetto blaster, they decided to leave the club and go out in the street to play some mixes and dance to the music they really liked. To their amazement loads of bystanders crowded the place, joined the dancing and the party carried on ’till morning. Aguayo still retains a strong memory of that first time: “Once you are at a street party, dancing on the street under a starry sky, it feels so natural and essential that when you do it you immediately ask yourself why you never did it before.”

When something happens so spontaneously and is so much fun, it’s natural to repeat it, and that’s how the notorious BumBumBox parties came to life. Since that very first time, Aguayo and Pimiento have organized many other free street parties all around South America. They powered up the sound system by adding another two or three ghetto blasters connected to an mp3 player, but always promoted the events with simple DIY actions like word of mouth, self-made videos or little homemade funny printed cards. “And most importantly,” reminds Aguayo “people listen to mixes, none of us are playing. We always carry and play some mixes, that we or other DJs have prepared at home, so that we can enjoy dancing as well, therefore knocking down any distance between performers and audience.” Maintaining the laidback and spontaneous atmosphere was key, because the true inspirational elements were the surprise guests, the unpredictability of the audience and the choice of open public places.

As opposed to clubs who tend to draw a certain crowd leading to a pretty standardized audience and a more passive consumer mentality (people paying an entrance fee have more clear expectations, expecting fulfillment for the money they paid), the street, with its diverse mix of people, allows for much more freedom with music. People who take part spontaneously in a ‘fiesta’ don’t know what they want to hear. Aguayo and his mates noticed that warmer and funkier vibes or playing a mix by Larry Levan worked better than a mix of modern reduced techno, but as much of the music wasn’t ‘just right’, Aguayo seized the thrilling opportunity to produce fresh new tracks especially designed for these parties. New material where old house and techno influences are accentuated with strong traditional Latin rhythms and the electronic sound meet that of maracas, marimbas, congas and so on. This way the audience was brought back to be the soul of the party, because the musicians involved in the project were driven to improvise music and performances based on their spontaneous responses. “We have also understood,” states Aguayo “the importance of having some special ‘figures’ in the party, like these original people you always catch around in clubs and who are a sort of driving force ’cause they take the initiative, draw people’s attention and kind of drag you into a party mood. ’Cause we’re conscious that, for a good party, not just the DJ but also the audience has to be good”.

The itinerancy of these parties showed Aguayo and Pimiento how public space works differently depending on the city or country, how much freedom there is to use certain spaces. “With time,” says Aguayo “we’ve developed a knowledge about free street parties and about which public space fits more. Pablo Castoldi, the friend who designs Cómeme covers and graphics, is also an architect and he’s very important for us regarding the choice of spaces. He made me see, for example, that not every space turns out to be good: a flat surface road or a space that is not too flooded with light are better, and generally it’s better to choose an open space that can somehow be reinterpreted (with natural decorations, something hanging like balloons or paper streamers or mirrors to define the borders) into a club dancefloor”.

Even more importantly, BumBumBox parties became a way to connect with other local DJs and musicians (Rebolledo in México, Diego Morales in Santiago de Chile, Ana Helder and DJs Pareja in Buenos Aires, Daniel Maloso, to name a few), who were similarly motivated by the idea of sharing and enjoying music on a street level and who, thanks to Aguayo’s encouragement and expertise, were spurred to make music that, despite the different sensibilities and tastes of each artist, could be played at the BumBumBox parties.

In order to enhance a common aesthetic, and exchange and improve the communication between artists living so far apart, a Soundcloud presence was set up, enabling each one to upload work while accessing other people’s ideas. Being able to listen to what people were doing in other Latin cities, working on another artist’s material and using this music in their DJ sets, worked out to be a fantastic strategy in deciding on where to go with the music and what rhythms to do. In less than a year there was already so much interesting ma- terial that it didn’t make sense to confine it to street parties or a small circle of friends, so Aguayo’s collective opened the material up to the wider internet audience orbiting around applications like MySpace and YouTube. The hugely positive response ultimately let the slowly sprouting idea of releasing the music on vinyl take hold. The Kompakt label in Cologne had always respected Aguayo’s independency and always been keen to support his efforts and ideas providing an excellent basis for taking the risk to invest money on an independent label. With Kompakt in Germany providing a sophisticated infrastructure and administration, the moment for Aguayo to help musicians with a big potential by giving them the opportunity to access the European market and audience had well and truly arrived.

This is how Aguayo and Pimiento brought Cómeme to also release vinyls. Home to some of the freakiest and hottest producers of the last two years, since its first release with the legendary track ‘Pitaya Frenesie’, a joint effort between Aguayo and Mexican wonder-kid Rebolledo, the music has distinguished itself with breathless personality. And thank God, it really is a kind of music you can’t easily define. Warehouse house music combines with funky, deep-dark tripping disco rhythms and sexy-nocturnal groove-driven techno is injected with heavy doses of raw psychedelia. Sometimes influences are obvious (Rebolledo makes no mystery of his love for Giorgio Moroder, for example) but there’s always much more than that, and whenever Cómeme artists play it is always done with a lot of fun and humour and in a completely unique fashion. And that’s the whole story. What’s coming next from planet Cómeme? For certain is an album by Rebolledo (there’s hardly any new producer hotter than him in 2010) due in 2011, and besides the appearance of Cologne DJ Christian S (his track ‘Jagos’ on the sixth release is just brilliant!) and the collaboration with London-based producer Capracara, new exciting contributions to the label from other European artists are without a doubt to be expected. After the first two successful BumBumBox parties in Europe this autumn (one in Norway in Tromsø, the other in Portugal in Porto) we certainly hope Cómeme’s collective will do more.

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