Archive | January 2014

Independent Promoters from Angola and Mozambique Release New Hip-Hop Mixtape

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Below is a translation that I recently did for Global Voices in Portuguese. The interview was originally published on 9th January 2014 by Buala, a website that publishes articles about culture in Portuguese speaking Africa and beyond.

“Submundo Luso vs 12transfusons” is a new mix tape that features rappers from Angola, Mozambique, Brazil and Portugal. Released on New Year’s Eve after five months of preparation, the project brought together hip-hop promoters from the blogs Submundo Luso in Mozambique and 12transfusons in Angola. The two became acquainted over the internet with the former inviting the latter to collaborate on the project. In this interview for the blog Underground Lusófono, Astérix o Néfilim (Astérix the Giant, in English), rapper, producer and manager of 12transfusons, talks about the project which involved the participation of artists from around the globe and is now available as a free download. He also shares his views on the artistic scene in Cabinda – a tiny province in the north of Angola – and the challenges created by such isolation.

Underground Lusófono (UL): How did you get this project up and running?

Astérix o Néfilim (AN): By choosing the artists that suited our vision. We wanted to bring back the roots of hip-hop and to do something a little bit different, a bit “old skool”. Normally promoters only work with well known artists but we wanted to bring together a little bit of everything, from the old skool to the new. We also tried to give priority to female rappers and unknown artists, as well as artists who have already made a name for themselves in Portuguese-language rap.

UL: How did you choose the musicians featured on the mixtape?

AN: That happened after hearing the suggestions of everyone involved at 12transfusons and Submundo Luso. We worked together on making a list of artists who we then contacted directly, although we ended up not getting all of the artists we wanted.

UL: What level of interest was there in collaborating with you?

AN: In 2011 we released “Mixtape 12transfusons Ed. 2011″ with the same vision and through this we’d already worked with a few of the artists. This was the case with AKAM-M, MAC D O MURMURYO and ALKAPPA. I’ve got to say though that it hasn’t been easy working with MCs as it’s a constant battle. Some took no notice because they didn’t believe in our work. Some underestimated us and thought what we were doing wouldn’t go well with their image. Others agreed to take part but ended up dropping out. And then some proved RAF-TAG’s “Hip-hopcrites” idea right – you know, the really arrogant ones who in their lyrics say they are keeping it real, are loyal and are making rap music out of love for the culture and that everything they do is for rap but then don’t want to collaborate. We’re independent producers. Everything that we’ve done up till now we’ve paid for ourselves without any help. So I want to make a shout-out for all the effort, time, dedication and hard work of artists like Khris Mc, IKONOKLASTA, AKAM-47 from Poltersonnik, REDGOVEM, KARDINAL MC Mona Dya Kidi and many others. Also to the staff at 12transfusons with a special shout-out to Absinto and Tecla 6/4 and everyone in Mozambique, Brazil and Portugal.

UL: What has the public reaction been like?

AN: Listen, the response we’ve had has been better than I was hoping for. Every day I get compliments, encouragement and congratulations because of our work. This, without doubt, is the best reward for all the hard work.

UL: How long has 12transfusons been on the market?

AN: 12transfusons is an independent production company and has been around in Cabinda since 2010. It’s put out albums and put on shows and other activities to do with hip-hop. In the group are Astérix the Giant (CEO), Tecla 6/4 (producer), Sacerdote, Rezo-Luto, 02K63, Absinto (designer) and Akônituz e Vars (producer). These last guys are the ones that represent production in the capital. Absinto and Akônituz were part of the group Artigo 9.0 and together we are the collective LETAL.

UL: How do you view music – in particular rap music – in Cabinda?

AN: I would be lying if I said that things are good because they really aren’t and there’s still a lot of work to do before people accept our culture and pay more attention to it. In Cabinda, it’s not only rap that’s finding it tough. The situation is reflected in all musical styles, everything from kuduro, kizomba and samba to kintueni and mayeye. The truth is that the music being made in Cambinda doesn’t get enough promotion. We have a completely non-existent culture secretary with next to no local promotion. Nothing justifies the fact that in a province with so many talented artists only two albums a year get released and there are only a handful of radio stations that support projects like ours. Rap is least requested for governmental rallies and events even though it’s what is most representative of the population. This is thanks to the efforts of all of the comrades in arms: Cabmusic and Miller Team, for example. Everyday there are new ideas, new MCs and new producers wanting to join the movement. This makes me very happy.

UL: In your opinion, what needs to be done to change the situation in Cabinda?

AN: Firstly, our music needs to be valued. It’s also important to get people used to hearing our music. The people of Cabinda are known as “prudes” and for not going to shows or buying albums. We have to encourage them to come to our concerts and to buy our CDs. But we can’t act alone. The culture secretary for this province needs to play this role through local promotion by using radio stations and TV channels to change the situation, however Cabinda doesn’t even have any public or private television stations. We need to create programs that help promote local music and support local musicians, and we need to stop employing musicians just for political campaigns and governmental events. The fee for local musicians should be the same as for musicians that come from Luanda or from any other part of the world so they feel valued. Also, a local television station would help promote the image of local artists. The truth is, Cabinda lacks private radio and television stations that can mix things up and break the routine of local news. While this doesn’t happen, we’ll continue fighting. We know what our battle is and we won’t back down.

UL: What projects are on the cards for this year?

AN: 12transfusons doesn’t stop. I have a fantastic team that loves working and is always willing to get its hands dirty. After this mixtape we’re going to launch Ruaportagem [a play on the words “street” and “report”] from the group Artigo 9.0, which is an EP that we have been working on and only this year finally able to get out on the streets. We hope people like it because we’re putting a lot of energy into it.

UL: What is “Ruaportagem”?

AN: It’s a way of looking at how thing are on the street, the problems people have, the different ways of surviving, and the daily sacrifices people make.

If you enjoyed this interview, then why not check out the mixtape? Download it for free here.

The 13 Greatest Albums of 2013 That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

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A new translation for the music website PuertoRicoIndie.com and published by Global Voices

A very interesting article that promotes the exciting Puerto Rico music scene.

http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/01/06/the-13-greatest-albums-of-2013-that-youve-probably-never-heard-of/

Diferencial CAC: A ‘Hacklab’ in Quito, Ecuador

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Words, photos, and videos by Juan Arellano. Originally published on the blog Globalizado.

Video and text translation by Tiago Miller.

Imagine a space that is at once a hackerspace, a place for coworking, an initiator of art and digital culture projects and a transmitter of all manner of ideas of a collaborative and technological nature. This space exists and it is called Diferencial CAC.

In May 2013, I had the opportunity to meet Juan Carlos León, the creator of Diferencial, and find out more about the initiative. Created in 2011, the project continues to develop at its new home at the Contemporary Art Center in Quito.

The project’s original blog explained that Diferencial Media Hub (as it was then called) would be an “independent, non-profit space, dedicated to the connection, promotion and production of projects that favor the development of a digital culture by means of productive dialogue and creative learning about art, technology and culture.” They went on to add that:

  • The Diferencial Media Hub’s main objective is the circulation, investigation, archiving and presentation of cultural practices and products that are linked to technological developments in contemporary society. The focus will be on collaborative practices and the creation of links with other spaces and projects in the region with similar aims.

Since then the project has been through a number of changes, such as moving from the city of Guayaquil to the capital Quito and having a more active participation in the development of technological ideas that have greater public reach out. Click on the link below to hear what Juan Carlos had to say about Diferencial’s journey:

http://www.amara.org/en/videos/CKISiIKb3OBM/info/juan-carlos-leon-diferencial-cac/

 Despite these changes, the project maintains much of its original concept but has managed to evolve in such a way that, although remaining loyal to that concept, allows for the flourishing of new ideas. Its current aims, for example, include:

  • Strengthening and consolidating alliances through working groups that allow for exchanges at local, regional and international level with public and private institutions who are interested in developing educational programs that recognize the productive, diffusive and creative purposes of projects that seek to democratize access to technology and information science.
  • Creating a users’ group consisting of artists, programmers and entrepreneurs in general in order to share skills and develop interdisciplinary projects.

Juan Carlos also showed us the space used to house the Diferencial CAC library and told us about the presence of coworking at the organization:

http://www.amara.org/en/videos/rZcRrLhoiZov/info/juan-carlos-leon-diferencial-cac-2/

As explained by Juan Carlos, Diferencial CAC is currently housed by and funded by the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) in Quito, with Diferencial CAC in turn offering space to other initiatives. One example of this is the online radio station BOOM BAP HC. Our visit to Diferencial CAC coincided with the presence of one the organizers of the station and we were able to talk to him about the project:

http://www.amara.org/en/videos/obe1rtPwNe9X/info/radio-boom-bap-hc/

The Contemporary Art Centre’s support of Diferencial CAC is mutual with Diferencial collaborating on various activities and functions at CAC, while participating in other group based projects. Juan Carlos showed us the spaces used for workshops and hackathons and told us about his plans for what remained of this year. He also recounted a (happy) anecdote that reflected the project’s open spirit:

http://www.amara.org/en/videos/bQU8R9lZgx8T/info/juan-carlos-leon-diferencial-cac-3/

This year, Diferencial has undertaken various interesting activities, most notably a Free Software Seminar with Richard Stallman, a hackathon to promote the neighborhood of San Juan, Platform Futugrama, a round table discussion about future projects and its support and involvement in Quito’s edition of SlutWalk, alongside numerous workshops, collaborations and other activities.

To hear more from them in 2014 you can follow them on Facebook.

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Juan Carlos León, Director of Diferencial CAC.