“The Strains of Heavy Dub Bass Wafted Through The Spaceship” – An Interview with Maga Bo- 28 May, 2012
On Quilombo do Futuro, the latest album from Maga Bo, this US DJ and producer fuses the heavy dancefloor rhythms and beats that you’d find in dancehall, baile funk and tropical bass productions with Afro-Brazilian percussion and singing for an album that bridges the gap between past, present and future. A resident of Rio de Janeiro, Maga Bo talks to us about the inspirations behind the album, why it took him so long to concentrate on making a “Brazilian” album and why William Gibson’s sci-fi rastas proved such an influence.
How did this album, and specifically it’s Afro-Brazilian flavours, come about?
It came about very organically. I’ve been living in Rio since 1999, so very much involved with local musicians for all these years. I’ve played capoeira for a long time, I’m an Angoleiro, so capoeira‘s been a big influence and that’s obviously pure Afro-Brazilian rhythm. And I play caixa and repique at the school of samba so I’ve been involved with various different Afro-Brazilian rhythms for a very long time and most of these rhythms have a lot of similarities with ragga and dub so you can fuse them with a lot of different things. I wanted to work on that level.
João Hermeto, who is the percussionist on virtually all the tracks is a guy I’ve worked with a really long time so I just started building tracks and getting him to play stuff on it. Then started building up all the tracks from there.
What’s the meaning behind the album’s title?
The name came from the first video I put out, “No Balanço da Canoa”. I had the idea for a really long time and I was explaining it to people and I kept coming to the part where our hero (the musician, data trafficker guy) arrives at the Quilombo do Futuro and it kept coming out like that, and while I was in the middle of looking for a name for the record, I thought “that’s it”.
Obviously a quilombo is an isolated place with limited access, easily defended, where people can live. It’s a little bit of a romantic vision of a quilombo because there were quilombos that had slavery, that had people who went out and robbed, so it’s a romantic image of that.
[Also] a big influence was the book Neuromancer by William Gibson. There’s a colony of rastafarians that live in a spaceship and every chapter that opened up with the rastas started off with “… and the strains of heavy dub bass wafted through the spaceship” or something like that, which was interesting because in a lot of ways dub is a music of cultural resistance and the rhythms I’m working with come directly from the quilombos and are also very much elements of cultura resistance. There are a lot of quilombos that are still around and functioning but in a way the cultural resistance movement has become something that has spread all over the world, you can find it on the Internet, people are connected by email and cellphones. So these are all elements of Quilombo do Futuro.
One of the really interesting things for me about the album is the use of Afro-Brazilian percussion, which gives this cyclical, energetic quality to the music, which is quite unusual to hear with deep bass and some of the dub effects you use…
I grew up listening to Jamaican music; dub, reggae and dancehall have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I’ve been to Jamaica a couple of times and it’s been a huge, huge influence on me. There’s a number of crews doing ragga and dub and dancehall in Brazil, a lot of them are friends of mine, and I’ve been accompanying that whole scene for a long time. One of the things that really seemed strange in some ways is that there is not a lot of Brazilian influence in the music, it tends to be more internationalised, it’s not so much about putting value on Afro-Brazilian rhythms. So it’s like an international sound but it’s sung in Portuguese. There are exceptions, the first Digital Dubs record totally blew my mind. They’ve got these slowed down, baile funk, dub kinds of things and others with samba elements and that totally blew my mind. Some of the most interesting stuff I’d heard in a really long time. But there’s not many people doing that kind of thing. So I really wanted to put the reggae and Afro-Brazilian rhythms together and see what I could do with it.
Considering you’ve lived in Rio since ’99 how come this is the first time that you’ve really expressed this Brazilian side to your tastes on an album?
I’m one of those people that gets a call or email to go and play in South Africa or India or wherever and I’m like “wow, I can do that” and then extend my time there. They’re going to pay for my airfare so I can go to Mozambique and I can meet new people there and do stuff and try to take advantage of that. I found myself travelling all the time and almost never at home. At home I was basically just getting ready to go on the next trip so I finally had to bite the buller and start saying no to things and just concentrating on my own stuff.
How did you come across Rosângela Macedo, who sings beautifully on a couple of the tracks?
I was at a friend’s house [that friend being Wolfram Lange of the excellent SoundGoods blog] and he put this one song on called “tambor” something, it’s the first track on a Kiko Dinucci record [we think he's referring to "Tambú E Candongueiro" off Kiko Dinucci E Bando AfroMacarrônico], and I just thought “what is this?” and asked him to play it six times in a row and then I asked him to email it me and I listened to it all day long the next day. So I ended up tracking Kiko down and got in touch with Rosângela [who sang on that song] and went to Sao Paulo just to meet her and record with her. She’s very much from the Afro-Brazilian world and up to that point had been very suspicious of hip-hop, so through this whole project it really opened up her eyes to how hip-hop basically works off traditions, and works in the same oral traditions as all these Afro-Brazilian rhythms.
Have you got any plans to take the album on tour with a live band?
I’m trying to work out how to play it live right now. I’ll be on tour in Europe in July, just doing a short tour, two weeks or so, and then I’ll be touring the States in August, and then back in Europe in November, where I’ll probably be with Jahdan Blakkamoore who’s on a couple of tracks on the record. Ya know putting on a live show and taking it on tour is quite an underaking so it depends on a lot of things but my ideal set-up would be two percussionists and two vocalists. Hopefully these current dates will lead up to doing it [the live band] at some festivals in Europe next summer.
Listen to the album below: