Story for Makeshift magazine, a Field Guide to Hidden Creativity
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Abstract: Belem’s producers mix international pop songs with local beats to attract big crowds and new jobs.
It’s 2 a.m. in the wet heat of one of Belem’s countless weekly raves. Like most nights in this northern city, loud, thick beats thump out above the crowds of girls twirling around men in tank tops. Amidst the blinding smoke machines, you could be forgiven for not paying attention to the night’s soundtrack.
But as the rotating pink spotlights settle into a rhythm, recognition hits: beneath reg- gaeton-like beats and video game bleep-noises, hints of 80s favorite “Girl’s Just Want to Have Fun” trickle through. From above the Portuguese chorus, “Today I Just Want to Dance!”, the DJ booms a shoutout to some fans, pushing the fader to mix into something that sounds like the new Rihanna track on speed, then a bass-heavy version of Beyonce’s “Single La- dies”. The dancing intensifies, and the booming covers work to keep up, blasting through until sunrise.
This is technobrega, literally translated as “cheesy techno”. Over the past decade it’s emerged as the musical subculture of northern Brazil. Born out of informality, it has thrived with- out record labels, regulations, or royalties….