Tropical Diaspora® Records is a independent Record Label and an Event established in Berlin with one mission: the spread of the great heritage of the African musical Diasporas from mainland Africa into the “Americas” and World Wide nowadays known as “new world”. With this aim in mind we are committed to produce events and press vinyl records to disseminate the Afro Diaspora sound for dance people and beyond.☆☆☆
In the 1990s I swapped the tropical concrete jungle São Paulo with another concrete jungle in Northern Europe, Berlin. An immigrant, a foreigner, a refugee, a “South American guy” in another diaspora, fleeing from the catastrophic economic and political situation in Brazil, I decided to share my passion for the musical heritage as Dj GArRinchA. Never mind the former and current politics in Brazil, let’s go back to where it all started, for me anyways. In the early 1990s, the political map of the world saw profound changes with Germany and the once divided city Berlin at the epicenter. Before the Berlin Wall did not only divide this city, it was also the most obvious manifestation of the political crack which had been running through the world after WWII. Shortly after the wall fell the entire Eastern bloc started to totter and finally collapsed.
After the reunification, many West-Germans along with people from all over the world came to Berlin. Others from East Berlin could not wait to leave. Abandoned by their previous owners, places in the Eastern districts were squatted. Unlicensed and thus illegal bars would pop up on every corner and disappear or move to a different place within a week. A thriving art scene with newly opened galleries emerged in rundown houses. Coming to Berlin in the 1990s was like entering a laboratory with transformation taking place at any corner and affecting any aspect of life. This transition generated a vacuum that made people feel almost like creators shaping part of tomorrow’s world by trying out new things while the old was retreating and the new was still to come. In short, Berlin became the center of the young subculture in Europe.
In this spirit a new movement was born, which I call the “Latin American Way” of the Berlin subculture. Among the first places where this yet-to-be-born scene gathered was the Freitags Bar (German for Friday’s Bar), one of the various unlicensed bars at the center of the former Eastern part of the city. To me, this place embodied perfectly the spirit of that time. Only people who knew about it would come to this gloomy cavernous place in the basement of a pre-WWII building. Each time there was the risk that the party would be called off by the police which made every single event not only slightly adventurous but all the more precious. Thanks to the Latin American affection of the host, music and drinks from South America set the tone. The DJs staging there had no names yet and put music on that nobody knew, the Brazilian cocktail Caipirinha still had the charm of novelty, its rum base Cachaça was a rarity and quite pricey.
Initially as guest in that gloomy cavern then as “employee” sitting upstairs by candlelight, i was the doorman. After a while i began to provide CD compilations with Brazilian music to the guys that did the music in the basement i.e. DJ´ and suddenly i could listen that music been playing again and again the parties downstairs. The logic consequence was to play my compilations by my self, also this was the begin. After a while i was a resident and began to mix Brazilian music, first of all with the all known Spanish Latin-American songs and later with Balkan music, a style that came in the taste of the people in the early 90ies. Just like that we promote almost every week the party in the Freitag´s Bar and one day a friend of my came to me and ask “…who is this singer you play every week in your set…? with this amazing voice! ” my answer was who-else if not Elza Soares!
Another Friday in the bar and this friend came again to me to say that he knows who this singer is, she was Garrincha´s wife! After that he said… ”you are the Dj Garrincha also…” and because was no night where I’ve played Elza Soares i accept that suggestion. So that night in that basement was the birth of Dj Garrincha. Not only i got a dj name, after my “baptism” everybody began to have dj names in the bar and some of them are active day now in Berlin like Dr.Sócrates and Andy Loop in Barcelona (by the way the asking guy in the history above).
But the most impressive personal experience for me back then was in 1996 after the concert of Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, when I met these musicians in the Freitags Bar. Yes, Chico Science was there in this very basement bar in the Mulackstraße, a place which, unfortunately, due to gentrification does no longer carry the taste of the 1990s. To point out not only the importance and meaning of this place in the early 1990s but also its effect, I should add that the most popular Latin American events in Berlin nowadays are produced and organized by people who used to be regulars at the Freitag´s Bar and whom I keep meeting at those events as today at the: TROPICAL DIASPORA in Berlin.
One of the lasting encounter at this basement existing today was that one with the guy that did the “doorman job” after me, today´s resident DJ Dr.Sócrates, his definition of Tropical Diaspora could´t be better…
I know Dj Garrincha for many years. We both share the love for unconventional music without labels or prejudices. We have shared many djs sessions, some good moments, some bad ones. But we haven’t given up our dream of collecting musical experiences that do not fit quite rightly what the mainstream expects for djs firing the dance floor. As Dj Garrincha told me about setting up a musical “tropical diaspora” supporting local bands and good music I couldn’t say no. For me “diaspora” means the constant movement in search for life based musical experiences, the traveling around of rhythms which are the result of suffering and exploitation as much as of a joyful sense of life.
“Tropical Diaspora” performs in the past in a emblematic venue where we try to create a room for empathic sharing. Instead of market professionalism we like to emphasis a true naive amateurism, though not in a pejorative sense. We claim the right of being amateurs of the dance floor, that is, literally, lovers, “amadores” as we call it in Portuguese. Surrounded by an ocean of mainstreams, the “Tropical Diaspora” party is an island of, simply, music. This is a music that is born uncut from the lives of the people. It is organic not manufactured; it grows from life’s stories. We respect that. “Tropical Diaspora” means music without preservatives, but as it simply is: “Tropical Diaspora”, the place to be in Berlin.
At Tropical Diaspora® Records we are committed to create a narrative, musical and otherwise, about the people that crossed the Atlantic from Africa to the “Americas” and gave rise to different cultural expressions that reflect both the horror and hope of that experience. In creating such a narrative we are however aware that the tools we use to communicate our idea and mission are shaped by the historical narrative of the imperialist powers; the hegemonic role that, for example, language play: French, English and Portuguese in Africa; Spanish, Portuguese and English in the “Americas“. We are even to blame for using English as lingua franca for our purposes. But, is it silence a better option? We won’t be silent. We want to speak; we believe that we have the right to speak and will use whatever means we have at our disposal in order to open up a communicative interface that is respectful of the history and legacy of the communities whose experiences, struggles and worldviews steadily groove like in a vinyl record our own work at Tropical Diaspora®.
As we carry out our musical research we come face to face with the question of how to address the cultural life of communities that only became part of the historical record from the moment Europeans became aware of their existence, which further means that their history is shaped by the way of looking at, by the narratives of the Europeans traders and colonialists, terms that from the perspective of colonized continents would be better described as genociders and criminals.
We oft refer to the “Americas” in order to emphasize the unity of the continent from the north to the south, or we speak about the African Diaspora. However, are these terms accurate? Since the word “America” is a derivation from the name of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci as generalized by the German-Flemish cartographer Mercator, it is clearly inadequate to designate the rich complexity of the original communities living in the continent. The term “America” signals the coming into history of these people from a European perspective. But this history is not their history.
We, at Tropical Diaspora® Records, are committed to purge our language from any sign of disrespect. And this statement wants to be a first step. We oblige ourselves to empower language and fill it with meanings of struggle and emancipation. Our language is music. We emphasize cross-cultural experiences that show the manner how communities take their past and present into their own hands. And we are glad to be an instrument for this purpose. Our collection of records Bugiganga Tropical goes in this direction, as well as our recent tribute to the social revolutionaries Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza, better known as Dr. Sócrates, and Hydée Tamara Bunker aka Tamarita or Tania in a 7 inch record by the Bolognesi El V and the Gardenhouse. It is this powerful social internationalism what we understand under the name of ‘the Americas’. And in this manner we follow in the footsteps of the great Fela Kuti, who created a powerful truly Pan-African musical language that today is conquering the world.
Dj. Garrincha & Dr. Sócrates