As one of the founders of the BRAZA! collective, Brazilian-born musician, producer, and DJ Antonio Guedes creates experiences that feel like a rhythmic journey through his homeland. Guedes, who moved to San Francisco 13 years ago, mixes international influences with contemporary flavors in his various projects. He recently released his second EP, Madinga, which uses tropical break beats to tell an artful love story.
We chatted with Guedes about his early career, BRAZA!, and what inspires him to keep creating.
Catch him playing a funk, disco, and house blend with Brazilian and African beats this Saturday, [1/14] for Afrolicious Soundsystem in the Loft at Public Works.
SF Weekly: Give us a brief history of how you got you started your musical career.
Antonio Guedes: I started playing with bands in Brazil when I was 13. We got gigs at whatever cheap bars would hire young kids like ourselves to play for tips. Gradually, I became involved with more serious bands, and eventually started to record a few demos, which got some mainstream radio exposure. So by 16 I was playing in festivals. When I moved to the Bay in 2003, I met a vibrant community of artists who inspired me to start producing.
SFW: When did you begin the DJ aspect of your career?
AG: When I began to establish a party producer career in 2006. I told Franky Boissy (who at the time invited me to run a few events for his club Pink) that I would like to operate the console for one of my parties. He brought me onto the venue’s stage and started to teach me about cues and BPM matching. I practiced a little, and a few days later I came up with a set list. I hit play and people didn’t leave the dance floor to go get drinks, so I think it worked.
SFW: Bring us back to your first memories of the BRAZA! collective.
AG: The first ones for me really were the meetings we used to have to listen to records and look at vinyl covers to come up with artwork that would later become our brand’s signature. It was a hobby that brought four guys together to create an event. Most people had never experienced or even heard anything like it in San Francisco (including myself). The first party was a big blast! It went viral quickly after that.
SFW: What has been your proudest accomplishment thus far?
AG: Looking back, I think what we are most happy about it is that some of the artists we would listen to at those meetings actually came and played at our party, becoming part of our circle of friends. That’s the best thing we could have achieved. Also, to have been collaborating with other fun neighbor events, like Afrolicious, that inspired us to start throwing dance parties in the first place.
SFW: Why is it important to keep international parties alive and well in the Bay?
AG: Because this is the Bay Area! That’s the short answer. The long one is because we need to feel like there’s a different world out there we can tap into. And if you see it doesn’t exist here, it’s your job to create it. As small as it can be, it represents a strong distant culture, which can bring joy, unity, and keep communities of like-minded people together. We were lucky we could do this for seven years, and still thrive even after all the city changes.
SFW: If you could pick one song to characterize you guys, what would it be?
AG: I think a no-brainer for all who started this event would be “Bananeira” by Emilio Santiago. Whenever we play it, it would break the ice and get people to groove or sing. It’s the most common song that represents our slogan: “Brazilian Beats & Breakes até Morrer!”
SFW: Tell us about your latest release, Mandinga.
AG: This release is what I could recover from some material I got stolen from me last year. This is my second official release, following the first one, Bonita Street, which came out in March 2016, and it was going to be part of a full album I was preparing. Now, I’m making the decision to redo the whole album from scratch (and include the new songs that will pop along the process).
SFW: What are some inspirations that went into this release?
AG: The inspirations are definitely late ‘70s Brazilian breaks. More specifically, a mixtape by DJ Zegon called A1. I was so hooked to the drums on this mix that I started to purchase vintage breaks sample packages. I jammed over them for a long time at the studio, until the lyrics hit me. Then Mandinga was born.
SFW: One track on the EP “Social Network Affair” touches on what you have described as “cerebral satire.” Tell us more about that.
AG: So, this one with a long name is a story about a guy who falls in love with his social network, literally. Everything works better and he is really happy. But then everything goes silent and all goes downhill from there, and he’s left alone. It’s actually just a satire about how people behave in bubbles, the way they copy each other’s behaviors, or the way we all need a “Like” to feel better about ourselves today. It started with a self-realization, but later I got “inspirations” from family members, friends, and strangers alike. It’s an old tune, and it’s very silly.
SFW: What are the top three tracks rotating on your personal playlist lately?
AG: I listen to a variety of styles. It’s tough to say what are the top three songs and leave anything out. But, recently I’m into psychedelic rock, like “Multi-Love” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Link Up” by NxWorries (featuring a sample from Cassiano, Onda), and what I’m preparing for Saturday’s set, “Amigo Branco” by Marcia Maria.
SFW: Finally, tell us what you’re looking forward to in 2017.
AG: An impeachment! Plus, to release a full album with new stuff I have in the works. I’m also starting to make tracks for other DJs and bands, which I’m starting to discover is really fun, because I don’t have the deep emotional attachment to it as I have with my own material, which is better for focusing and evolving and further developing my production skills.