pleasure principe! the sound of lisbon’s bairro’s won’t be stopped…

i-D and Tim and Barry meet the producers and DJ’s twisting African pop into the beautiful and brash sound of Batida.

by Ian McQuaid
06 August 2015, 9:42am

Over the last decade a new sound has emerged from the bairro's surrounding Lisbon. It's a propulsive rendition of high energy African pop recreated on hacked copies of Fruity Loops, lyrics stripped out to leave a clattering percussive noise; it's loud, brash and vital. At first the kids playing this largely nameless sound found themselves marginalised, banned from the decks in the city's African clubs, accused of playing music that started trouble. Now, with the support from Lisbon's homegrown Principe Records, they can be found tearing the roof off the Musicbox club at the monthly Noite Principe event, a showcase where this restlessly inventive sound can be heard in a state of constant evolution. Here are the faces of Lisbon's loud, bright and vibrant scene...

"I started very young, doing parties in the neighbourhood, DJing lots of styles - kuduro, kizomba, hip hop, different types of African music - then I started making my own productions. I'm lucky enough to play my own sound - Batida. There's no translation in English for the word. In Portuguese it's the same word for when your heart beats when you have a car crash."

"I listen to Nervoso and NK - they're the best on the scene, they make rich music, and they stay true to themselves. I listen to new artists outside of Principe, but it's often the difference between eating a Feijoada (Portuguese bean stew which is a kind of soul food) and eating a McDonalds - when you eat the Feijoada you get full, and when you eat the McDonalds, half an hour later you get hungry. It's like a ready made product."

"The sound is getting better though - Caja De Mind have a more house feel to their productions, but if you listen to Lilocox you can hear the influence of trap. There's a lot more openness to modern styles than there used to be."

"My name came from school, people always said I seemed a bit nervous, and then when I started to play the music they thought it even more - it's from the way that I play the tracks."

"I wasn't allowed to play after 3am in the African Clubs - they thought they'd be fights and disruption if I played - and sometimes there would be violence, and people would point the finger at me as being to blame. So I learnt to play a certain kind of sound for a certain kind of environment. The people who were dancing wanted it faster and faster, and there were some parties where people wouldn't dance at all to the other music, they were just waiting for the Batida to kick in, they'd say, don't forget about us! We want to dance! So I'd tell them they could dance but they'd have to go easy, and they'd say Nervoso it's your fault, because you are the nervous guy! So the name stuck."

Maboku and Lilocox

Maboku: "I had a lot of contacts on the African club circuits, but now I'm trying to play more with Principe, because when I go to the African Clubs, the owners say 'cut the ghetto crap.' Firmeza still gets to play a little of our sound, but the owners really control the narrative of what you can play."

Lilocox: "I started making beats alone, I was influenced by Nervoso, Marfox, Dadi Fox, and NK, and I started trading beats with other producers online. Then when there was a party, and we were really young teenagers, we'd see new guys like Firmeza, Liofox, and Dadifox were getting more serious. And they formally invited Maboku into the crew, it was very diplomatic."

Maboku: "We saw Lilocox spinning at a party and thought he was really good - he was from Cape Verde rather than Angola, which gave him a different perspective on the sound. So we invited him to join the crew, CDDG. So at a certain point CDDG was 7 or 8 guys, and we started fighting over things, slowly it started to disintegrate. Firmeza still uses that ID for his tracks, but the crew doesn't really exist. I decided to leave and went back to using the name CDM, and invited Lilocox to join me."

"The IDs are used because people used to steal a lot. If you just put the sound out with no ID, someone else would steal it and put their ID on it - this happened a lot with DJs from Angola. I had an EP that came out on Principe earlier this year, and someone put one of the tracks up on Youtube saying it was his track, so I had to remake it with my ID on it."

"I'm 20 years old. My father's from Angola, and I was born in Lisbon. I used to have a dance group with my elder brother, Dadi Fox was our DJ. Then I started using Fruity Loops to start producing music around 2007. I was too young for the parties so I used to sneak in, to watch my brother and DJ Nervoso. Nervoso had his own way of putting music together and making people dance- if I hadn't got into Nervoso I wouldn't be a DJ…"

"The dice on my tattoo mean that the world is a game; we play that game and we are the kings. I live music, it's part of me. If I'm fucked up, the music is fucked up. When I'm writing sounds I'm always dancing, I'm always searching for music, I'm open to music from everybody."

DJ Kolt and DJ Perigoso
Kolt: "We started out with my uncle who was a birthday and wedding DJ, playing party music. I'd follow him around everywhere I could. That's how I became part of his crew. There were three of us and when the other guy dropped out, I invited Perigoso to get involved, he was a friend from round the neighbourhood who'd started messing with Fruity Loops. I was called Kolt because I loved playing video games with guns."

Perigoso: "I didn't really choose my name- it was given to me - people would hear my tracks and say, wow they're really dangerous, they're really aggressive, so the name Perigoso (literally: dangerous) stuck. My parents didn't like our music at all, but now it's getting a bit respected, and it's getting played in better places and in the city centre, so they can appreciate it a bit more."

"This bairro is really bad. We don't have a café here. If you want to get a drink you have to walk twenty minutes. There's one bus out an hour, and it hardly sticks to the schedule. When we go to play at Noit Principe at music box we catch the last bus between 11 and 11.30, that drives for 15 minutes, drops us off and from there we walk further to get to the club."

Kolt: "My main inspiration is myself. I always wanted to be a DJ. Meeting Principe was a big thing - it was like finally getting something that was missing."

"I'm 20 years old- I started making music when I was 12, then in 2009 I met Nunex and we started making a unique sound together. I was a follower of Marfox, Marfox and Nervoso were my big influences. I think I'm continuing the work of the neighbourhood, of Marfox and Nervoso. The people around here are always asking for new music. The music originally comes from Angola, but what we've made here isn't the same thing. Sometimes it's difficult for me to play my sounds at home. In the beginning my parents thought the music I made was loud and noisy and didn't have a proper rhythm to dance to, but they've been getting used to it, and now they've seen people dancing to it they're starting to believe in it."

With thanks to Principe Records for their help with translation


Text Ian McQuaid
Photography Tim And Barry