DJ Tahira is a superbly eclectic DJ and Producer from São Paulo in Brazil who is becoming famous for his deep explorations into traditional Brazilian rhythms pairing them alongside all kinds of beats and pieces from House to Hip Hop and much more...Ex-Friendly caught up with the much in demand man for a quick interview about his inspirations and plans for the future.....(click through on the acts he has mentioned for a joyful education in Brazilian music!)
We got very excited by your latest release on Tiff’s Joints (new UK imprint) because as fans of traditional Afro-Brazilian music and forward-thinking electronic music we rarely get to hear the two forms combined so well! To be honest, I’m a bit embarrassed that I haven’t come across your name before (though I knew about Fumaça Jazz and EBS Diggin)!
Can you give us a brief history of your career up to now? You started very young I believe?
Tahira - I’m 42 years old. I’ve been DJing for more than twenty years. Always love music. Always love dance.
I started DJing House Music in the 90s. Then got into downtempo: Acid Jazz, Hip Hop and Trip Hop beats. Then I got interested in discovering all the influences of Funk, Soul, Jazz, Latin, Brazilian, African.
In 2000 I moved to London for one year. The Nu-Jazz and Broken Beat scene was growing. It was great to live in a city that gave deserved attention to culture. Big lesson.
Back in Brazil I got really disappointed with the São Paulo scene. I didn’t get any gigs so I started to record podcasts to express myself, and because the podcast comes the idea to research new Brazilian music and EBS Diggin starts.
Thanks to the podcast I got my first invitation to play abroad in the Ukraine in a Brahma (Brazilian beer) promotional event. After this gig I started to play in other countries and never stop. Since then, every year I travel abroad for 2 or 3 months DJing where they want some Brazilian flavour and collecting experiences and making friends.
DJing in Europe makes me research more and more Brazilian music to create my own repertoire, and then I start to pay attention to the African Brazilian music. And a whole new world comes to me. At the same time the need to produce music is born naturally in me and this is what I have been doing since this point until now.
Gilles Peterson once said that when he first went to Brazil he would try and play more traditional Afro-Brazilian music and rhythms but was always asked to play more European and American music.. This has changed a lot right?
T - This revolution about African Brazilian music in cities like São Paulo just started to change in the last 5 years. Before that there was a lot of prejudice about the sound. Now people are recognising their own roots and are giving the deserved importance to what we have here.
Brazil like a lot of other countries has always been American (USA) influenced. Fashion, sports, food and of course music. Brazilian club culture took years and years to embrace the Brazilian sound. Its sad to say, but it’s true.
So before this, anything you played about Brazilian music had to have a strong American touch. The only style that didn’t was Samba Rock (the kind of music that Jorge Ben does). But the rest it has to be more electronic, funky or jazzy.
Why do you think Brazilian musicians and DJs have started to look at their own culture and musical traditions more?
T -We have a great musical culture! An amazing history. Brazil has at least 30 kind of rhythms. Styles like Carimbo, Maxixe, Lundu have existed since the last century. So we have a lot to discover about us. It’s like a therapy of self-knowledge. It’s time for Brazilians to look inside and discover our culture and then bring something good to share with the modern world.
One thing it is important to say, we always had people that helped to promote and preserve the musical traditions. Great musicians and amazing researchers and I’m happy this is getting bigger and bigger.
Have you always been aware of your musical traditions or did you discover it later in your life?
Life is crazy. I’ve learned to appreciate Brazilian music from foreign people in the Acid Jazz times. As any Brazilian I was very American influenced. But the musical traditions came in the last 10 years after read a biography of Jackson do Pandeiro, a huge musician very famous in the 60s.
Your production work uses a lot of Brazilian percussion and rhythms, do you play? (I’m a percussionist myself with a samba bateria here in Nottingham!)
T - Some people say DJs are frustrated musicians. I’m one of them!! And I love to listen to beats, rhythm and percussion that I don’t know (this is my nerd digging side).
What were you listening to when you were younger and what led you to where you are now?
T - I had listened to everything, like anyone. I grew up in a normal family, we didn’t have any special musical background. So, basically Pop music. Rock, Dance Music, Hip Hop, Soul, Funk. But what led me to open my world musically was curiosity. I like to listen to different things and at one point I got interested in listening to styles with little or no American music influences. And this opened a whole new world for me. For now I’m more into what is near to me as Brazilian and African but I wanna go in other directions in the future.
Do you think being from São Paulo and Bahia (Northern Brazil, the birthplace of Samba) encouraged you to look at the more African side of Brazilian music?
T - I’m from São Paulo and this African thing is kind of new here but in Bahia they have always been very much influenced by African culture. But São Paulo brings me to the modern music side, the electronic side. So this is the idea. Join both sides.
Your release with Fernando TRZ on Tiff’s Joints is a killer! Can you tell us a bit about how it came about?
T - TRZ is a great keyboard player. We worked together on a Fumaça Jazz remix for Names You Can Trust label from NYC and we did some collaborations for each other. So, in some point we decide to officialize this as Oribata.
I have always been a House Music fan and like all this African Brazilian percussion that is pretty different to what most foreign people know about Brazilian music. TRZ has a jazz and Brazilian background, and he loves synths and modern sounds too. So, the idea of Batuki was to bring these two worlds together.
How does it feel getting the approval of Gilberto Gil for your re-edit of his classic ‘Toda Menina Baiana’ track?
T - When I did it, I never imagined one day this re-edit it would be retweeted and Facebook posted in Gilberto Gil´s profile. It’s a big honour! He is a genius. I always listen to and DJ his music a lot, it’s the best thing a fan can have. One day i wanna give a big hug to him and to thank him for so much beautiful music he has given to the world!
Your label EBS Diggin is on its 13th release now, that’s a lot of music! How strong is the scene in Brazil right now? Who should we be looking out for?
T - The independent scene is huge but not strong unfortunately. There is a lot of talent but not quite the musical careers because is very difficult to survive in a country like Brazil. But I think Brazil is in its best moment!! A lot of creative people. Musicians stop the prejudice about modern electronic music. A lot is happening and a lot to come too.
For now I stop temporarily with EBS Diggin to focus on my productions and researches. It’s too much to do for one person, but soon I wanna come back.
Some tips: Boogie producer Joe Black. Bernardo Pinheiro re-edits, the strong African music of Tiganá Santana, pop music with the quality of Baianasystem, modern beats from Paraiba using the traditional style Samba de Coco with Chico Correa and Furmiga Dub. Afrobeat of Abayomy Afrobeat Orquestra and Icolini, beautiful roots music of Siba, Renata Rosa, Banda de Pifanos de Caruaru (see Tahira's edit at top of page), Coco Raizes Arcoverde and Bongar. Instrumental hip hop beats of CESRV. Nu Disco from Fatnotronic and Joutro Mundo. House beats of The Soul Architect and Nomumbah and the incredible research and music of Alfredo Belo aka DJ Tudo. Probably I’m forgetting a lot of names …
Your Boiler Room set is one of the more interesting that I’ve heard for a while mixing up traditional sounds with some of the more forward thinking Brazilian influenced beats from recent years - how was it playing with a camera in your face?
T - The line-up was damn strong. Gilles (Peterson), DJ Nuts, George (Nightmares On Wax), Todd Terry and 440. Just the names already makes any fanatic about music go crazy. So I got very nervous and anxious when the Boiler Room people contacted me, but I realised this is not gonna help. So I promised to myself to enjoy the moment. To not do a planned DJ set and to not think about this much. To promote something different to what people are used to listening to, and give voice to the ones that don’t have one but are great musicians or producers that deserved to be heard.
Obrigado Tahira and looking forward to your new projects!
Interview by Ex-Friendly