Sound Machines of the Amazon

Technobrega, the Amazon's flashy answer to house music, is part pirates, part space ships.

Nov 23 2011, 2:05am

Ask anyone who's spent time in Brazil about Brazilian music, and they're liable to chew your ear off about a few things: drinking cachaça in tiny nightclubs while a 12-piece samba band tries to outpace the staccato explosion of dancing women's heels; the glittery, markedly danceable forró scene with its rhinestone cowboys and wearable zabumbas and the militant, Miami bass (with more guns, drugs and ass) vibe of favela funk.

But that's the popular stuff, the music of Rio and São Paulo. Way up in the isolated northern state of Pará, right on the edge of the Amazonian wilds, something else is playing. The people of Belém, the capital of Pará, listen to technobrega.

Literally meaning “tacky techno,” technobrega shows are like carnivalesque Jamaican dancehall parties set to blaring, early-90s arena house. Oh, and it looks like outer space and there's fire shooting out of stuff. The whole scene lives off of the parties themselves, with DJs and artists who actively encourage people to pirate their music just to help get their name out there and fill the next show. All in all it makes for an incredibly prolific and tight-knit scene unlike any other out there.

VICE and Motherboard traveled to Belém to check out the technobrega scene. We were particularly impressed with the "aparelhagens," the massive, handmade combination sound systems/DJ booths that are equal parts Star Trek, Daft Punk's live show and the Aggro Crag. We met aparelhagen designer Valdinei Moia Veiga (appropriately-nicknamed "Big Sound") in his workshop to get a look at how some of his eye-twisting creations come to life before heading out and having a taste of technobrega for ourselves.

By Derek Mead

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