artwork by Márcio Matos
Festa no Musicbox na baixa lisboeta.
Party at Musicbox in downtown Lisbon.
Born in Portugal and based in Paris, producer DJ Lycox released his debut Sonhos & Pesadelos via Príncipe in November. Helming groundbreaking dance releases, the Lisbon imprint has pushed sounds from the likes of Nídia, DJ Firmeza, Niagara, Firma do Txiga and more. Originally as part of the Tia Maria Produções crew, also signed to the Lisbon label, DJ Lycox has since set out to make his own mark, and his debut sees him work within a kuduro framework, bringing in pop tones and strong melodies but still keeping it heavy.
In comparison to Príncipe’s other artists, Lycox’s music is refreshingly straightforward: his kuduru rhythms are more utilitarian and club ready, and his melodies are poppier than those of his more avant garde label mates. As such his music is a perfect entry point for newcomers to the label’s sound, or else a moment of release for those already immersed in Principe’s wonderfully dense and eccentric sonic universe.
Accordingly, his mix for us is clubby and to the point. Clocking in at just over half an hour, it’s a colourful, high-energy injection of soca rhythms, grimey synths and scattershot vocal samples.
Words by Aimee Cliff
“Over the years, I’ve been more empowered to play my own style,” Firmeza told The FADER recently. “And to not give a fuck about what people say, or the stigma that is attached to my own style. I’ve just become myself.”
Filmmaker Clayton Vomero was aware of all this when he traveled to Lisbon earlier this year, but was aware of the limitations of capturing a sprawling musical community. “I never set out to tell the story of the Lisbon scene,” he says. “It’s too large and too vibrant to sum up in a short film.” He didn’t know exactly what he wanted to shoot: only that he was interested in the breathless, percussive dance music that was emerging from the capital city’s bairros, or ghettos, and that he was drawn to Firmeza in particular. Vomero had once watched Firmeza on YouTube as he mixed frenetic tunes in a living room. In early 2017, the director was mourning the loss of a good friend, and had packed up his belongings into a storage unit, leaving his home in New York behind for a while. When he met Firmeza in Lisbon, he realized that they had this fresh grief in common, and the film began to take shape.
The pair spent days talking about life and death — via interpreters — and nights bouncing between clubs and friends’ houses. “It wasn’t just his music,” Vomero realized, “But how he looked at life, and how he was coping with the loss of his father and becoming a role model to his family, and then still being an inherently spiritual person who doesn’t really care about religion so much. I just got lucky to have found Firmeza beyond his music.”
Words by Lisa Blanning
As pretty much the only label documenting Lisbon’s increasingly important batida and post-kuduro scene, Príncipe’s release schedule is the easiest way to stay updated with its development. DJ Lycox isn’t exactly a newcomer—you may have seen him DJ at various Príncipe parties internationally over the past couple of years—but Sonhos & Pesadelos is his solo debut. While it’s full of enthusiasm for the dance floor—its ten tracks are rhythm compositions of some sort—the range is broader than you might expect.
Anyone looking for the syncopated rhythms, lazer synths and militant attitude of kuduro should go straight to “La Java.” (Surely it’s no coincidence that there’s a Paris nightclub of the same name.) “Nichako,” the other standout, underlines Lycox’s similarities with gqom, the South African style of house. There’s an almost Balearic swing to “Domingo Abençoado,” while “Sky”‘s 4/4 and melody of strings could be disco house, until a jumble of extra percussion tumbles in. Angolan genres like kizomba and tarraxinha no doubt inform Lycox’s approach. His ear for odd melodies suits his bright palette, which maintains pop intrigue while remaining unconventional, intriguing and occasionally confusing.
Words by Duncan Harrison
Over the last five years, the inimitable sounds of Lisbon’s surrounding barrios have caused shockwaves on dancefloors all over the world. As the godfather of the genre, DJ Marfox’s DJ sets embody the infectious frenzy of the sound. Sets in his hometown and overseas spark atmospheres of hysteria with diverse, energetic crowds hurling their bodies around to the clomping, high BPM thud of this unparalleled party music. While unleashing his own productions and cuts from the Príncipe family, Marfox has also been known to sew current bangers from hip-hop and R&B into the jagged fabric of his own sound. A godfather who flies the flag proud and loud.