Sam Backer: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! So- the new compilation is really fantastic.
Daniel Haaksman: Thank you. It’s like the 5th genre specific compilation I did. I did a couple of others early on- I don’t know if you’re familiar with Baile Funk: Rio Booty Beats. I made two of those, and before that, I made two dub compilations, like 90′s dub. And then we did this compilation on post-punk in brazil. “Não Wave” (meaning “No Wave”) – That was actually the first release on man recordings. I did another one called “Bossa Do Morro”, as we say in Portuguese which was for the 50th anniversary of Bossa Nova, where we commissioned producers from Rio to do the baile funk versions of classic Bossa Nova tracks.
S: Oh cool! I haven’t heard that.
H: Actually, it never came out outside of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland because there were rights problems. I was allowed to work with tracks from the Universal catalog, because they have a lot of Verve stuff- Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Tom Jobim. But they don’t have the rights to export it outside of the US and they are very tight about what to put out, so unfortunately it never came out outside of those countries
S: And is the new album going to be released in America? I can’t remember.
H: Yeah- it’s a world wide release.
S: That’s really cool because, as far as I know, it’s the first world wide release of a Tecno Brega compilation.
H: Yea, true! I mean there was is UK label called Mais Um Disco which released an EP of Tecno Brega tracks earlier in 2012, but they titled the compilation “Electro-Amazonas,” and people really didn’t associate that with Tecno Brega actually.
S: It also, it wasn’t physical I don’t think.
H: Yeah, you’re right. It was only a digital release.
S: So is the compilation getting a physical release?
H: I´m afraid not, CD sales have completely collapsed lately, especially when it comes to electronic music.
S: Were rights an issue? I know that a lot of copyright law gets kind of loose around a lot of Tecno Brega.
H: [chuckles] Yes, Yes. Well I mean- of course the melody elements featured, for example, in this one Gang Do Eletro tune, which is taken from Kraftwerks “Model.” That’s not cleared obviously, the same for “Popcorn”. But everything else basically is. Even Major Lazer “Get free!” We only could get that one for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland again, but it’s actually an official release. It officially came out through Itunes as a Major Lazer single. But strangely they- or their label- didn’t tag the remix as a Tecno Brega remix, so people really didn’t understand what it was all about! [laughs] But I think that in this context, now that it’s in the compilation, people get what it’s actually about.
S: For me, what was really cool about the compilation was that it highlights the diversity of the genre’s sound. When I told people in the office about it, they were all like “Great. An hour of Tecno Brega….” But you listen to it and you don’t get tired of it! It’s great the whole way through.
H: You know, I went through hundred of tracks, and actually, it wasn’t soeasy to put together a compilation like this. By nature, Tecno Brega is music made by a lot of amateurs Basically anyone can do Brega. It’s the same with Baile funk. In Baile funk, you just take two loops, anyone with a laptop can do it, anyone with a laptop and a microphone. And it’s the same for Tecno Brega you know? It’s people’s music, it’s grass roots music. And there’s a lot of trash,but in all this trash there are sometimes gems, there’s some outstanding tracks. You just have to go through this huge pile of music, and eventually you come up with a selection of 40 tracks. Which I had at the end.And some of them are unworkable because some of the artists didn’t respond, or they didn’t understand that I needed the tracks in 320KPS. A lot of the Tecno Brega circulates online in 128 KPS format, MP3 format, which is fine for a laptop listening but if you want to put out a proper compilation you have to have at least 320 KPS because otherwise the sound is just too bad.
I think that now a good time to release this compilation. Tecno Brega has been around for a long time- I heard it first in 2005- but it’s only in the last few years that it started to get a bit more diverse, and also a bit more musical. Producers got more experience with programming and actually started to add real instruments or including musicians in their productions. And this made it much more appealing,because as I said, there was a lot of trash and sometimes you couldn’t hear it, the quality was not good enough.
S: So you first heard it in 2005. How did you get, how did you hear it?
H: Well I was in Rio quite often back then, working on different releaseson Man recordings. Then I met this friend of mine from Copenhagen, Andreas Johnson- he’s a film director who did this film called “Bad Copy Good Copy.” It’s a very good documentary. There’s also a part about Tecno Brega in it, and he brought me some CDs from there, because in 2005, Brazil wasn’t really online yet in terms of music and circulation, and things would circulate within Brazil on CD, but like the United States, Brazil is a gigantic country. So until Brazil went online, a lot of these regional music stars would stay in one particular region and would never come to any other part of Brazil, not to speak of any other part of the world, because they would just stay in this one area.
So, it was thanks to him that I got introduced to it because he brought me these CDs. Back then I thought that it was interesting, especially because they were versioning a lot of international pop music, just replaying or finding the media files of certain pop songs, feeding them with cheap synth sounds and adding the brega sound to it, or finding acapellas of pop songs and just adding a tecno brega beat to it, and making a tecno brega version. This I found quite interesting. Although, the majority of it back then was pretty trashy, and it was also music that I thought would never work outside of Brazil.
I think that’s always an important thing if you’re doing such things as compilations for an international market- you always have to think about who is your potential audience, and it’s mostly people who have never been to Brazil, people who don’t speak Portuguese, so you have to not so much focus on the lyrics, but focus on the sound and the musicality of things. And even if it comes from sort of a non-musical background, sometimes you find true gems. You know, as in baile funk there’s a lot of trash, but sometimes there are tracks where you say “Wow, this is insane,” you know, this is so simple but so powerful. In a way, brega does the same thing for me.
S: You’ve had a lot of success with baile funk, which is a fairly hard hitting sound. Do you think, I mean, tecno brego has a far more idiosyncratic sound. Do you think it will be able to well the same way internationally?
H: Yeah- actually, I think it’s even more compatible for an international audience because it’s more melodic. You know because lyrics are not barked as in baile funk, they are actually sung. It’s also very much referring to a lot of 80s pop music, in a strange way, but if you listen to some German or some European pop music from the early to mid 80s there’s a French group called Indochine, I don’t know if your familiar with groups like that, but between ‘83-’85 in a sort of post no-wave, early electronic pop moment, they made music that sounds very similar to Tecno Brega. And the same thing is true for a lot of German new-wave bands, they made a lot of music similar to Tecno Brega with almost the same equipment. I mean of course they had a lot of real synths and real drum sounds, but the structure, the melody, the groove, they are pretty similar to Tecno Brega.
It’s funny how this circle closes. About twenty or thirty years later in the north of Brazil, in the Amazon forest more or less, this music gets big radio songs, and also maybe becomes a new inspiration for pop music producers as well. Looking at my soundcloud account, I can track where people are listening to my music, and funnily, a lot of people from Turkey are listening to my Tecno Brega mini-mix. I’m sure this could work very well in the middle east, because it has the same kind of belly-dancing, hip shaking rhythm. And a lot of the melodies have some half tone elements and I think it could appear to a middle eastern audience very well
S: What do you mean that the melodies are quite cheap?
H: Well you know, they’re a bit cheesy sometimes, a bit tacky… I mean- they’re quite sassy, quite sweet, you know? Quite luscious, so to say. [laughs] A lot of people I talk to say “I can’t listen to tecno brega!” It’s just too crazy, too camp, too kitsch for them. But there’s the same thing with baile funk- it really polarizes, and people either love it or hate it. And, so far the feedback has been very good and I’m actually surprised that it’s been so good. I mean, I knew that people could relate to it, but I didn’t expect it to be that good actually.
S: One of the things that’s also happened recently is that the genre has started to develop breakout stars, or at least some recognizable names. And in fact, you’ve got a couple of them on the comp. Do you think there’s a possibility of someone like Banda UÓ or Gaby Amarantos becoming international stars?
H: Yeah, I mean- I saw Banda UÓ live, and they did a really impressive show here in Berlin. It had sort of… Village People choreography- it was very choreographed, and people here went crazy, and it was really appealing to everyone. People in Berlin don’t speak Portuguese, so no one understood what they were singing about, and the lyrics are quite campy but you know it’s very melodic, it’s very bombastic in a way. It had quite a camp edge, and I think that’s something that people could internationally relate to. The only thing though I think is that there is still that language barrier. People can identify with Portuguese because it is a soft language, but it still has it’s limitations. So I’m not sure if they could actually cross into the bigger audiences outside of Brazil, because still it’s kind of particular kind of music. But who knows? Maybe there’s going to be an international adaptation of that sound, with big pop stars picking up on Tecno Brega, and then will include some of these artists like Gaby Amarantos or Banda UÓ, and make them internationally known.. Or maybe they could do some albums or tracks or songs in English. I think that could easily happen.
S: So you make your own Tecno Brega too.
H: Yea, I did this track “Berlin Brega”, and I also asked João Brazil to do two tecno brega remixes of tracks mine, because I loved this genre for quite a while, and João Brazil is a very good musician, he’s very versatile at different music styles. “Berlin Brega” was a kind of personal adaptation of this sound. I originally released it on my debut album which came out two years ago, so I had it in my catalog and re-released it on this compilation. and I’m working on a new release with Waldo Squash, the producer of Gang do Electo.
S: He’s great!
H: Yeah, he’s amazing! and he’s also an amazing performer and I’m sure that he could also have the potential to become better known internationally. It’s also because the Lusophone world is changing so much at the moment economically. Countries like Angola and Brazil, they’re no longer “third world” countries. Of course, there´s still a lot of social inequality, especially in Angola, but they have a growing middle class, so artists that emerge in those countries, they get huge fees paid in those countries. So sometimes they don’t have to go to the US or Europe to make a career, to make a living, because they make much more money in Brazil, or Angola, in Portugal than they could abroad. So this is also another reason why maybe some of these artists will never cross into an international audience, because they just don’t think it’s not necessary, you know? It’s something that is very new compared to 10, 15, 20 years ago, when the main goal of every artists was to break in the US or in UK. But now these countries have become so wealthy and have such a booming economy that this is not necessarily a goal for musicians there anymore. Brazil has 200 million inhabitants so it’s a gigantic music market anyway.
S: How do you think that’s changed the music?
H: Well- Now, artists can afford to make bigger music videos, bigger productions, and they don’t have to focus selling their music internationally, they can really focus on their domestic market. At the same time, even though they focus on a domestic market, the music circulates much more rapidly international because of the internet, because once its on a sharing platforms or Soundcloud, anyone from anywhere in the world can listen to that music. Before 10, 15 years ago, it was the labels that would decide which music from Brazil or any country from the Southern hemisphere would cross into the North. There was always this bottle neck which every musician had to go through. It was the label, the media industry that decided what would come up here, so to say, and what would stay down there. And now with the internet, everything is circulating, so you never know what happens with regional music styles, and what fruits and what effects these music styles can have in other places around the world. I would say that for the music industry, it’s the worst time ever. But for new music, it’s the best time ever, because there’s never been so many different music styles from all over the world accessible, changing European music styles! You have even music styles like moombhaton or trap, which didn’t emerge in certain cities or countries but were sort of created post-locally, were created on the internet and through all the communities that are communicating through the internet. So I think it’s an exciting time.
S: Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Daniel has recently started a new show on Germany’s Funkhaus Radio. Check out his Tecno Brega Special!