Editor's note: Lisbon's underground has been catching lots of well-deserved attention lately. This exhilarating, raw strain of Afro-Portuguese dance music is mostly made by bedroom producers in the city's isolated ghettos, but wields more power than a thousand political rallies. Thanks to the success of labels like Príncipe and DJs like Marfox and Nigga Fox, the sound is going global. Here, Buraka Som Sistema's Kalaf Epalanga, boss of Lisbon-based label Enchufada, introduces the 16-year-old producer Dotorado Pro—whose track "African Scream" was released on the label this week.
Twelve months ago, Dotorado Pro broke into the Lisbon Afro-House scene with the song "African Scream." The local Internet hit quickly turned into a DJ favorite, igniting dancefloors around the world and bumping everywhere from Lisbon city buses to cellphones. Most importantly, the song is echoing on the streets, where validation is given by Lisbon's youth—a curious group that got tired of using headphones, and chooses to blast their favorite songs through cellphone speakers while commuting in and out of the city. These songs are inspiring impromptu dance battles and shaping the sonic landscape of the city.
When I tracked down the elusive producer behind "African Scream," I found out that Dotorado Pro is actually a black 16-year-old kid from Setúbal. This is less surprising than you'd expect. Setúbal is an old city 25 miles south of Lisbon with an industrial and fishing history, and relatively few exciting activities for local teenagers. Dotorado Pro (born Valdano António Mateus da Silva) acknowledges that boredom was the primary motivation that propelled him into producing dance music.
"What else could I occupy myself with? I'm not that into sports or dancing, like some of the cool kids in the neighborhood," he admits while connecting his laptop to the TV in his family's living room to showcase some of latest beats. Some of them are still works in progress—sketches of songs that he developed alone or with his crew, Mambos da Casa Produções. All six members of his crew connected online, since they live in different towns in the outskirts of Lisbon.
Dotorado Pro was originally born in Angola but he didn't have the chance to see much of it. At the age of two, while the country was still at war, his mother moved the family from Luanda to Setúbal looking for more stability. There, Dotorado Pro fell in love with kuduro, and started messing around with music production software at age 11. He decided to dive into Fruity Loops to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Gaia Beat. The infectious looping marimbas that you hear on "African Scream," as Dotorado Pro promptly admits, were inspired by this Angolan producer and his well-known use of the percussion instrument.
Dotorado Pro is fully aware of how much Angolan music is profoundly changing the Portuguese music scene. It's no longer a novelty to see urban African music filling up arenas and topping sales charts in Portugal. During our visit to his home, he even has an argument with his mother about the importance of having his music at this very moment, when everyone in Lisbon feels that something big is about to happen. She's initially reluctant, but seeing a group of people gathered in her living room, visibly excited about the prospect of releasing her son's tracks, she finally gave her blessing, followed with a warning: "Remember that school comes first!"
He might not be old enough to get into the clubs that are playing his music, but Dotorado Pro already has the numbers to back up his talent. "African Scream" currently has over 350,000 plays on SoundCloud, dwarfing those of way bigger artists. His generation is striving for a new musical ideal, something that challenges the mainstream dance scene and communicates quickly with other territories. Afro-house is this common rhythmic dialect that translates everywhere from Ghana to South Africa, and now to Portugal as well. When asked how he feels about being at the forefront of this movement, he shyly replies, "If I knew this would be the song that would put me on the map, I would've kept it for myself a little longer!"
"African Scream" is out this week on Enchufada
Follow Kalaf Epalanga on Twitter