State Of Play: Lisbon

Words by: Ben Raven
Posted: 15/12/17 22:41

Above photo and home page from Lux Fragil:

For the next in our series of interviews where we speak to local luminaries about the scenes in their cities, label boss and record shop owner Jorge Caiado explain's why Lisbon's star is rising. 

Whisper it quietly. Lisbon is rapidly emerging as one of hottest Europe’s dance music hotspots. Every month more DJs are moving there and raving about it’s nightlife scene. To get an understanding for what the scene in the Portugese capital is like, we spoke to Jorge Caiado, a label boss and producer who had his first start on Chez Damier’s Balance Recordings, and who runs one of the city’s best vinyl shops, Carpets & Snares.

Ibiza Voice: Is Lisbon a good place to be an artist?

Jorge Caiado: At the moment the city is going through the same phase Berlin went through a few years ago. Because it’s relatively cheaper than most countries in Europe, the boom of tourists discovering the city and starting to stay have heaped more pressure onto the housing market. The rents have started to soar for the locals but are still accessible to many who come from abroad. The cost of living is cheap, the quality of day-to-day life is better than what you can ask for in many European countries and the electronic music scene is expanding fast, so yeah, I’d say it’s still a very good place for those who want to start/keep an artist career in the city.

What's the best thing about the scene in Lisbon currently?

Despite electronic music being present in Portugal since the early 90s, I’d say that now we’re going though a new phase where a lot of different things are happening. There are many new producers, record labels, promoters, clubs, you name it. The scene is bubbling and I feel that we’re in the beginning of a new cycle that could become a new positive panorama for all those that work hard and dedicate themselves to the scene.

Jorge Caiado. Photo by André Leiria.

What sets Lisbon apart from other cities?

As a city Lisbon has a unique vibe. The sunlight, the weather, the food, the people, all this ensures that when people are looking to dance, those added factors will create a very singular energy. However, relating to the abandon and transcendency on the dance floor, Lisbon and Portugal still need to mature. When they give themselves to the experience though, there’s no better crowd.

What challenges does the city face?

At the moment with the tourist boom and a whole new wave of promoters and clubs trying to establish themselves, the city hall is trying to enforce new noise licensing rules to try and get the clubs and nightlife closer to the margins of the river. Fortunately Lisbon is home to three medium/large clubs, with conditions and lineups above average, Lux Frágil, Ministerium, and Musicbox, but I’m finding more and more, that there’s a need to have more small spaces (250 capacity) to meet the demand of artists and punters that want to have fun but always end up with few possibilities.

At the moment there is Europa (mythical house/techno club in the Lisbon scene), Rive-Rouge (Lux related new venue) and Microclub Lx (in the West part of the city)  but the evolution of the scene in the city demands more. Fortunately the growth in this direction is starting to show, as is the case with the new club that’ll open on this New Year’s Eve in the East side of town, called “East House.”

How do promoters get on with city officials?

It’s not an easy task to start a party from scratch in a new place, or opening a club, due to the large amount of licences and permissions demanded by law. However, whenever well structured, the city hall and the authorities collaborate for the growth of a healthy scene.

Tell us about your shop?

In the beginning of that same year, a record shop arose in downtown Lisbon, founded by João Maria (Assemble Music) in a partnership with another existing shop in Porto, a sort of branch in the capital. I started working in the shop a few weeks after it had opened.

For several reasons the partnership with the shop in Porto didn’t workout and a few months later there was a need for more partners and to create a new brand. That’s the moment where Carpet & Snares Records was born, with Zé Salvador (one of the most respected DJs in Portugal) and myself as new partners in this adventure. After a little over a year later, in 2015, I ended up taking control of the shop alone and its branches until today.

From that point onwards I’m happy to say that the “Carpet” family has been growing, and even though I still count on Zé Salvador’s help, new members have been added. At this moment I have Rui Ferreira aka Roy (my right arm), André Leiria (the artist that produced the first release of our catalogue), Hélio (Padilla Ltd), and my sister Adília Lima who’s the creative designer behind all our graphic pieces, be it for record labels or posters for events.

Dyed Soundorom & John Dimas digging at Carpets & Snares.

What’s the vibe of the store?

We specialise in dance music with a special focus on house and techno, but we also have disco, funk, hip hop/beats, and more left-leaning electronica. We receive new records every week and we also have a constant flow of second hand records, as I acquire vinyl collections from time to time.

In some ways we try to be more than just a record shop, and so we try to be a hub, for a whole new generation. For everyone that needs to feel that they’re not alone, that there is a place where they can share the music they’re creating, the records they’ve been discovering, the parties they’re promoting, [help answer] industry questions, like how they can set up their own labels, or help out with pressing plant contacts or distributors.

We strive to connect the community and make it stronger, and help a scene that in Portugal, although growing, is still very small and has to fight with all the difficulties and adversities that every underground movement has to face.

What's the digging scene like in Lisbon?

Lisbon had several record shops in the 90s, many of them specialized in electronic music, but unfortunately with the vinyl crisis, a lot of them had to close. Flur is the “mother-shop,” as it was the only one that survived the sharp decline in sales of the early 2000s, but also because it’s still standing healthy and strong after more than 15 years.

In some way, when our shop opened, it came and complemented the work Flur had been doing, because as you know there are many different ramifications inside house and techno to explore, and that makes for a viable coexistence. There are many other shops in Lisbon but they’re mostly focused on second-hand records and in different musical genres.

This year, two more shops have opened, specialising in rare grooves and world music (African and Brazilian mostly).

Besides record shops, Lisbon has a flea market every Tuesday and Saturday mornings, where there are almost always new batches of records, where African music rarities coming from the former Portuguese colonies, among others, are common.

Ben UFO and Call Super at the helm of Lux Fragil.

What's happening musically in the city currently?

I would say that the massification of techno music in the latest years has meant that the parties with the most adhesion, are those where the headliners are clearly artists of the genre. House music has never been out of fashion, but its popularity runs in cycles. In the last five years, the expansion of new ramifications of electronica heavily influenced by African music from Portuguese ex-colonies have put Lisbon on the map.

However, [with the exception of] two parties by the labels that drove the movement: Príncipe Discos and Enchufada, not much else is happening with a lot of exposure or followers. I also feel that there’s space for more alternative parties of disco, funk, and rare grooves. Hip-hop has grown tremendously, although it’s much closer to the commercial circuit. 

I think that the movements with less support are, unfortunately, drum’n’bass and all the variants of the UK sound. Hats off to the few promoters that keep giving it their all so that these movements keep their presence in the city.

Are there any interesting new crews?

Hayes is without a doubt one of the most recent collectives that will begin 2018 with their new label and events focused on techno. VIL and Temudo, artists that have been collecting great feedback from the several different quadrants of the international scene, are members of this project.

Pandilla Ltd are back to the capital after spending a few years in Berlin and they’ve not only regularly gigging around Portugal, but have a busy calendar for 2018. For the lovers of the more minimalistic sounds, these boys have a project that you should keep your eyes on.

The guys from Padre Himalaya also have a few jokers up their sleeve. The label belongs to Silvestre and Renato, who started it in 2016 with two very interesting records. A new label has also emerged last month, Light Channel Recordings, belonging to one of the shop’s customers and with a very promising 12’’ by DJ Silver from Berlin.

I’d be omitting the truth if I didn’t also say that the inner core of the shop are also about to put forth some very interesting and promising projects and releases. More on that soon!

What does Lisbon need more of?

More people dancing with their eyes closed. More culture. More openness and interest in new things. A bigger connection to the music and more openness to abandon on the dance floor.

And what does it need less of?

Less lights at the club. Less stigma. Less culture of “see and be seen”.

Check out Carpets & Snares here.


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