DJ/producer of Brazilian music group Bossacucanova, Marcelinho da Lua (aka DJ Da Lua), is a master at fusing the traditional sounds of bossa nova with electronica. He started his musical career behind the scenes, working as a roadie and studio assistant in his teens. It was during that time that he inherited his mother’s Brazilian record collection, and began learning techniques in studio production. His initial experiments began by working in samples of classic Brazilian records with hip-hop. It wasn’t long before he expanded those experiments to include drum 'n' bass and jungle records, concocting the beginning of his DJ and producer career.
Today, da Lua is considered one of the best contemporary producers of Brazilian music. When he’s not touring the world with Bossacucanova, he’s spending time in his Rio de Janeiro studio making award-winning albums like 2003’s Tranquilo. We spoke with da Lua (with translation help from BRAZA’s Elan Kamesar) about the importance of bossa nova, sharing Brazilian music with the world, and what he has in store this year.
DJ Da Lua plays Elbo Room this Thursday, May 21, for BRAZA’s SF Carnaval 2015 Kick-Off Celebration with the Bay Area Brazilian All Stars. A percentage of the profits will go to Hamilton Family Center.
[jump] Describe to us the style of music you spin.
In terms of musical style, I love breaks and beats, but I also love melodies. I love drum 'n' bass, hip-hop, funk, and soul. I like the music that unites Africa with the Americas. I’m not really into house, techno, and trance. I’m into sounds that are more organic in their core, but with groovy electronic beats. My musical taste has a lot to do with where I live, which is Rio de Janeiro. The sunny weather and the beach vibes makes me happy and resonate with island sounds, reggae, dancehall, Afro-Cuban, and, of course, Brazilian music, from North to South.
How did you get started with Bossacucanova?
I first got involved with Bossacucanova when I was on the technical staff of a professional recording studio in Rio de Janeiro that belonged to one of the great legends of bossa nova and Brazilian music, Roberto Menescal. His son Marcio, also a musician and one of the founders of Bossacucanova, was always there as well. Between recording sessions we would hang out, smoke, and talk about musical ideas. Eventually, we went in to the studio to try out some of our own experiments, and we discovered that we could mix bossa nova music with beats, straight from my mom’s record collection to tape. Back then, we made samples in really primitive ways. For example, we would use a microphone to record the samples, instead of running through an input. We were experimenting, figuring things out and having fun. That was the spirit with which we created and developed our sound. And even today, more than 15 years later, we are still a family. Right now we’re in the United States performing our newest album. We just played at Rock in Rio in Las Vegas, and at another super fun hippy festival in Joshua Tree. We can’t wait to hit San Francisco!
For those of us that aren't familiar with the bossa nova genre, who are some good artists to gain knowledge from?
The great early legends such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, and Roberto Menescal. They were geniuses, and their music is eternal. To the newbies, bossa nova is the mixture of Brazilian rhythms with jazz. It began in the 1950s and that was the great golden age. But even today, many decades later, bossa nova is still influencing the world. It influences jazz, and it influences all types of Brazilian music. Even though bossa nova in its pure sense was a style of music from the '50s, what the very name means is a “new thing,” or a “new wave,” and it’s a part of every new thing that has come out of Brazil ever since, including our music, Bossacucanova, which is electronic music, but is also bossa nova and references everything that it was about. And there are some new bossa nova artists that play it in a more traditional sense too. For example, I love the melodies and songs of Mahmundi and another current singer in Rio de Janeiro who’s surprisingly good, Larissa Luz. She has such an amazing voice!
Your first solo album's single was featured in FIFA '06. What's it like having your music featured in a videogame?
“Tranquilo!” Of all of my own productions it’s the song with which I’ve had the most success. It was my biggest hit, and it got a lot of play in Brazil during that time. It won many awards, including MTV Awards. It was a surprise when it was selected by FIFA! I felt so honored because we love football (soccer) so much in Brazil. Plus, so many people around the world are fans of soccer that we were really proud to represent our country. It was a great privilege for me, and made me feel so happy and proud!
What upcoming projects do you have coming up this year?
I’ve got a new studio, so I got new songs coming up. One of my new ones is about the bicycle, and about the people who ride it in their everyday lives. It’s about how a beautiful life is a simple life, and a healthy life, and I think the bicycle represents that idea. We’re also working on a new compilation of Bossacucanova songs, and we’re working on selecting the tracks. We also want to work on a new Bossacucanova experimental album, where we make dub sessions with our favorite tracks. And of course, in 2016, the Olympics will come to Rio de Janeiro, and we are excited to work hard, and participate at such a huge event.
You are currently touring around the U.S. sharing Brazilian music with the U.S. culture. What has this experience been like for you?
The traveling life is really great and really mind opening, but you need to have a lot of discipline. It gets hard to maintain your sanity, and hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. And now that I’m a dad it’s a little bit more difficult for me to travel like this and be away from my son. It’s been almost a month since I last saw him and I miss him so much. But I think it’s important to do this because Brazilian music is so rich and Bossacucanova loves Brazilian music and so it gives us so much joy to share it. We have so much to offer to the world, and now is time to party in San Francisco with our BRAZA! family.
Traveling is so great, and so full of surprises. We have so much fun, although there are some difficult moments, but the best thing is that afterwards we can laugh about them. With Bossacucanova we’ve traveled all over playing Brazilian music. We've played in Australia, Japan, Europe, Colombia, Canada, Argentina, and Africa. Everywhere I go I pick up records, of course! I collect vinyl, and I love music from all over, and so I want to take it with me, and share it at home. This is especially the case since the birth of my son. I want him to grow up with great music. Also, I want to share it with him the same way my parents shared with me, to pass the torch, and witness as he discovers music for himself!
Which location has responded surprisingly well to Brazilian music?
Well, in many places we have a great response. Besides Brazil, we've noticed in the United States people really dig what we do, especially in North Carolina and here, in Joshua Tree. The dancefloor was pleased with the vibes we brought along with us. Also, another places that we thought we really had a blast was France, Singapore, Colombia. Now, back to Brazil, the “réveillon” [NYE] of Copacabana beach, with millions of people, it’s such an incredible experience.
What are you looking forward to this Thursday when you spin at the Elbo Room?
This will be the second time that I play at the Elbo Room. The first time I played there was about 10 years ago when I played a gig with my good friend Vinnie Esparza, a great local DJ here in the Bay Area. What can I say? I love San Francisco! It’s a city that’s been very supportive for me in my career, and also for the career of Bossacucanova. It’s the base of the Six Degrees record label, which has launched our music in North America. So I’ve been here at least a dozen times, and it’s always been a city that’s given me such great memories, and so many great friends. The last time I was here with my wife I played at BRAZA! and it was crazy! So this time I’m looking forward to sharing the new things that I’ve discovered recently in Brazil. I want to share the energy of the Brazilian Carnival, and play electronic carnival music, get the dancefloor cooking, and get the good vibes flowing!