“Scene to Watch: Borderless Sounds” ft. Batida
As the global community where 20 million creators from 190 countries share their sounds with the world every day, SoundCloud connects artists, bridges genres and pushes traditional music boundaries to create change. “Borderless Sounds” celebrates the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly by spotlighting five global music scenes that show how sounds can come together to create new genres and drive music culture forward, across timezones and borders. Check tomorrow for the last Scene to Watch: Borderless Sounds ft. Carnival Routes.
Scene to Watch: Batida
Guest post by Philip Sherburne*
The Portuguese word “batida” means “beat,” but in recent years, batida has also come to refer to a dynamic hybrid of musical ideas from across the Afro-Lusophone diaspora, a fusion of sounds and rhythms from places like Angola, São Tomé e Príncipe, Cape Verde, and Guinea-Bissau. Greater Lisbon, with its large population of immigrants from the former Portuguese colonies, is ground zero for the batida revolution, with one record label in particular serving as the style’s chief platform and portal to the outside world: Príncipe Discos.
Príncipe was founded in 2011 by a crew with ties to Lisbon’s dance-music scene, but its origins stretch back to 2007, when co-founder Pedro Gomes encountered a young musician playing brittle, synth- and sample-heavy tracks based on rhythms like the funaná at a youth concert in a working-class outer Lisbon neighborhood. That musician, DJ Marfox, would go on to release the label’s inaugural record, Eu Sei Quem Sou, a dizzying blend of styles like kuduro and tarraxinha full of clanging electronic drums and burly synth melodies. The title (“I know who I am”) amounted to a bold assertion of self-confidence – no small thing for a 23-year-old black man from Lisbon’s projects, the son of immigrants from São Tomé e Príncipe.
Marfox quickly cemented his status as batida’s leading figure, performing in clubs and at festivals across Europe and beyond, and releasing on internationally recognized labels like the UK’s iconic Warp Records, Buraka Som Sistema’s Enchufada, and the Chicago footwork-oriented label Lit City Trax. Meanwhile, Marfox’s influence spread, spawning a wave of young producers who named themselves in homage to him: DJ Nigga Fox, DJ LiloCox, Farucox, and more.
DJ Nigga Fox joined the label in 2013, with an even more psychedelic style full of mind-bending polyrhythms, disjointed noises, jarring textures, and hairpin turns. Like his mentor, Nigga Fox went on to release on the experimental electronic heavyweight Warp Records and impress fans across borders and as noteworthy as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.
In addition to solo artists like DJ Firmeza, DJ Nervoso, DJ Lycox, and DJ Lilocox, many of Príncipe’s acts are collectives or crews from outer Lisbon’s poor neighborhoods: Blacksea Não Maya, Piquenos DJs Do Guetto (Little DJs of the Ghetto), RS Produções, Casa de Mãe Produções (Mom’s House Productions). The shout-outs in their productions make it easy to figure out who is responsible for each song. Before joining Príncipe, these artists had only played at local events, often at youth centers or block parties.
One of the biggest success stories is Nídia, a young woman who grew up in Lisbon’s Vale da Amoreira neighborhood but moved with her parents to Bordeaux, France, at just 14. In Portugal, she and her friends had danced to batida at neighborhood events; in France, she sat down at her laptop, fired up a few YouTube tutorials, and dubbed her operation Estúdio da Mana (Sister’s Studio). She released her debut EP on Príncipe in 2015, when she was just 18 years old, and followed up with her debut album in 2017. Her style is both catchy and experimental, pairing dazzling polyrhythmic interplay with unexpectedly nuanced textures.
Nídia is one of very few women to carry the flag for batida so far; she also represents the style’s international spread, connecting not just Lisbon and the former colonies but also her home in Bordeaux and her worldwide fanbase. Among those fans are Elza Soares, the 82-year-old Brazilian singer, who commissioned a Nídia remix in 2017, and the Knife’s Karin Drijer, aka Fever Ray, who hired Nídia to co-produce her 2018 song “IDK About You.” Both songs are a testament to the fact that Nídia’s music refuses to be confined to any kind of ghetto – whether by genre, gender, or nationality. As it spreads and mutates, the same could be said for batida itself.
Stream our Afro-Portuguese Batida playlist to get familiar with your future favorites, and then check back tomorrow for our last scene to watch as part of our “Borderless Sounds” series with the United Nations.
“Scene to Watch” is the newest extension of SoundCloud’s To Watch programming that gives you a heads-up on who and what should be on your radar. Because from artists to DJs to scenes: what’s next in music is first on SoundCloud.
*Philip Sherburne is an American writer based in Spain. Currently a contributing editor at Pitchfork, he has been writing about electronic and experimental music for more than 20 years.