Words: Michael Lawson
Over the past couple of years, a high-energy sound from Lisbon’s projects has witnessed a considerable surge in popularity. Coined as ‘the ghetto sound of Lisbon’, it incorporates traditional Afro-Portuguese genres – such as kuduro, batida and tarraxinha – but remains unquestionably distinct.
These obscure genres mostly originated from the former Portuguese colonies – mainly Angola and Cape Verde – and the slums on the outskirts of Lisbon have become a melting pot that allows them to merge and take up exciting new forms. There can be parallels drawn between Lisbon's ghetto sound and urban music scenes in other parts of the world (Chicago footwork, Jersey club and UK funky are the first that spring to mind), yet the unbridled originality of Lisbon’s thriving musical landscape cannot be downplayed.
At the forefront of the scene since its formation in the mid-2000s, DJ Marfox is perhaps its most distinguished artist – regularly being booked to play at clubs and festivals across the world.
As well as being an established DJ and producer in his own right, he has been instrumental in shaping the Príncipe Discos imprint that has been championing the Lisbon sound since 2011 – releasing records from all of the scene’s key figures. Described by Marfox as “not only a record label, but a family”, Principe has played a pivotal role in showcasing the music of the ghetto on the world stage.
More recently, Marfox headed a Príncipe broadcast on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM, but seems reluctant to set goals for the future. Instead, he humbly highlights the importance of “health, love and full dedication to the music.”
He headlines the TLC Soundsystem party this Saturday at The African Arts Centre, with the rest of the line-up reading like a who’s who of under-the-radar Glasgow talent. Heated Heads label-boss Mother, Art School regulars Sofay and Bake (who co-runs the All Caps imprint with Ryan Martin) are all pencilled in to perform, while the Govan venue will make a unique backdrop, emphasising the ghetto sound of Lisbon’s global appeal.
Listen to Marfox in the mix for The Fader below and check out our recent interview:
SynthGlasgow: For those who are uninitiated, could you start by describing your sound and how it fits into the vibrant Lisbon ghetto scene?
DJ Marfox: I’d say it’s a combination of a few things, all of them stuff I grew up listening to: from Kuduro to electronic pop music from 90’s radio stations to African music. But it is not a look into the past; it’s my contemporary vision of it.
SG: Much of your music and that of your contemporaries is released via the Príncipe Discos label. What are the origins of this label, and how big a part has it played in helping the rise in popularity of this style of music?
DJ Marfox: Príncipe Discos is not only a record label, it is a family, and as we all know, family always has an important role in our lives. It’s almost 5 years together in this, and it wasn’t just about releasing music on vinyl or digital, but to open doors for this new music of Lisboa to the world.
SG: In what ways do you think an increase in exposure to western club music has influenced your sound?
DJ Marfox: In a certain way all life experiences end up having repercussions, be it positive or negative, and in all honesty I still don’t know quite what impact all the travelling around has had on my work.
SG: It is fair to say that artists like DJ Nigga Fox, DJ Nervoso and yourself have amassed a global following over the past few years, and have played in cities all over the world – including a much-lauded hometown Boiler Room showcase. What are the next steps?
DJ Marfox: It’s good what has been happening to us, but speaking from my experience, I don’t make any grand plans; I want to have health, love and full dedication to this music.
SG: This will be your second time performing in Glasgow in as many years, and Nidia Minaj – one of the brightest young talents of the kuduro scene – also played earlier in the year. What is your perception of Glasgow and how it receives your music?
DJ Marfox: Glasgow was magical and unique; I have good memories from the night I played out. It was one of the best gigs I’ve had in spite of the small room – a super phenomenal night. For this weekend's party I hope to hype-up all attending with a good DJ set, and hope people keep it mental and physical with their dancing.
DJ Marfox plays TLC Soundsystem alongside Mother, Sofay, Tabako and Bake at The African Arts Centre this Saturday December 10th. Advance tickets are available from Ticket Tailor priced at £8 (excl fees).