Feature: Brazil’s Floating Festival

Feature: Brazil’s Floating Festival

published on 28.03.14

Earlier this year Defected In The House announced its debut appearance at MOB Festival; a musical extravaganza that takes place just off the coast of Brazil aboard one of the country’s most luxurious ships. Ahead of MOB this April, here Defected’s Ben Lovett speaks to MOB’s promoter about the challenges of running a floating festival, and takes a closer look at the electronic music scene in one of the world’s fastest-rising club cultures.  

“The Brazilian club scene continues to grow” declares Juliano Jacomino, promoter of Brazil’s increasingly influential MOB Festival.  “Electronic music is still relatively new for us so people’s enthusiasm for it carries us a long way.  At the same time, we’ve never had such easy access to electronic music.  The music has become more democratic than ever – it is for everyone.  These days, there’s not just one type of club sound.  That might have been the case once but today there’s something for everyone and that has made our overall scene better...easier.”

MOB or ‘Music On Board’ is an excellent case in point.  The next major MOB festival takes place 11-14 April, a four-day chartered cruise along Brazil’s stunning coastline featuring an absorbing spectrum of underground house and techno talent.  The likes of Lee Foss (with singer Anabel Englund), Sandy Rivera, Miguel Migs (with Lisa Shaw), Copyright, Kolombo, Flashmob and in-demand Deep Dish-er Sharam will all join luxury Royal Caribbean International vessel Splendour Of The Seas when it departs (and later returns to) Santos, Sao Paulo on its special sonic voyage.  Variety is, according to Jacomino, essential.

“I think variety makes what we do more exciting, and more of a surprise for people” he argues.  “I can’t really describe our sound, and I don’t like to try.  It’s an indescribable experience; it’s unique.  Everyone steps on board to party and no-one can leave so the experience is pure.  We’ve always innovated with the music, so there are new acts from overseas this year such as Lee Foss and Kolombo [Belgian talent Olivier Gregoire]; in 2013, we were the first, I think, to introduce The Martinez Brothers and David August.  At the same time, we’re supporting local artists such as HNQO and Funky Fat...names to watch out for.  I think we have a great mix for next month.”

MOB, image via

That’s not to forget Defected In The House’s attendance either.  Sandy Rivera, Copyright, Flashmob, Supernova and Sam Divine are all set to play beneath the Defected banner at MOB, widening both theirs and the festival’s reach yet further.  “It was partly a personal thing” Jacomino explains.  “All promoters incorporate a little of their own personal taste in what they do and that’s no different here.  I’m a big fan of Defected; they offer so many different ideas.  Quite a few people in Brazil know of Defected but not so many have had a direct experience with them unless they’ve been to Ibiza or Europe perhaps.  This felt like a great opportunity.  We’re going to be recording a whole bunch of material from MOB to share afterwards; MOB will hopefully be a platform for more Defected tours here in the future.”

MOB has come a long way over the past few years.  It hosted its first parties in 2005, aboard small ships that “weren’t so great.”  A successful tie-up, however, with Ministry Of Sound’s 15th anniversary celebrations helped catalyse a partnership with prestigious cruise line brand Royal Caribbean in 2010; one that has been maintained every since.  “We’ve had our obstacles but we have always aimed high and there has always been interest in the way unique way we approach our events” Jacomino reflects.  “This is a strategically significant time for us; this is the eighth year of MOB and it feels right to be expanding our horizons again.  We have major cruises lined up for this November, in Miami, and then for December 2015 in Brazil; they’re already chartered.  We’re also exploring some possibilities in Europe and even Asia.”

MOB’s evolution reflects Brazil’s redefining status within the global electronic dance landscape.  Brazil isn’t simply embracing dance music these days but starting to push its own interpretations of the genre.  That said it was DJ Meme, one of Brazil’s original house pioneers, who indicated the same emerging transition to Defected three years ago.  Metamorphosis from importer to exporter has, it seems, taken longer than expected.

“We are booking local artists, and they’re starting to make a name for themselves.  The big clubs, too, like D-Edge and Warung [in Sao Paulo and Praia Brava respectively] are starting to make a name for themselves beyond our borders, but it is still unusual for people on the scene here to do anything other than bring artists and music in from elsewhere” Jacomino offers.  “Our club following is growing, which is fantastic, but Brazil is still classed as an importer, and definitely not an exporter.”

What has Meme to say about the current state of play?  “The Brazilian crowd is now deeply into the electronic scene.  Brazil tends to create non-lasting situations based in the hype of the moment but specifically now it’s crystal clear how real the opportunities that we have [to move forwards] are, and how important it is to find ways to keep them” he replies.  “It’s time to learn how to run things properly.  We do have our own national heroes producing music we can call ‘our own’, artists like Wehbba and Volkoder, and that’s an important tool to cement the faith and our self-esteem.  People can now, I think, look and recognize themselves as part of a movement, and not just as observers.  It’s all good; it’s all about faith on something.  There’s a long way ahead but my fingers are crossed.  Things are moving here faster than ever....”

If the underground scene is genuinely now shifting through the gears, then Brazil’s fascination with EDM is already at full throttle.  According to Jacomino it’s a complicating factor.  “Our country is producing its own EDM stars.  Artists like Marcelo CIC have formed partnerships with some pretty major international DJs; it’s another way in which Brazil’s own voice is being heard which is great.  But there’s still so much interest in those big international sounds.  MOB has booked acts like Kaskade and Above & Beyond before but we always look to balance this with the underground.  This mix is much more interesting; we can properly educate and excite our crowds.  Unfortunately, when everything is always EDM then you’re not really giving anybody anything new.”

He continues:  “The problem with Brazil is that we don’t have a very old electronic scene like, say, in Europe.  Therefore people are influenced to a greater degree by the media.  There’s so much talk about EDM at the moment that people are focused on that.  It’s created quite a big separation in Brazil.  If D-Edge and Warung are underground then Green Valley, another of Brazil’s big clubs [in Camboriú] is EDM.  There’s a big section in between that isn’t being explored, which is a problem.  That’s where I see labels like Defected sitting.  They’re doing their own thing, creating an exciting intersection between mainstream and underground.  We need to see more of that trend here.”

Warung, image via

It was just over a year ago that the world’s media reported on a devastating fire at the Kiss nightclub in Brazilian city Santa Maria; the tragedy killed over 240 people.  Subsequent investigation confirmed illegal indoor usage of outdoor pyrotechnics as root cause and prompted a government clampdown on Brazilian clubs.  “There have been challenges” Meme concedes.  “We’ve had problems with the frequent visits of government agents, closing parties and nightclubs without any notice.  But despite this unfortunate incident, there has been a positive consequence; club owners are following the rules like never before...not only because they fear the police but because of the shock of the fire itself.”

Jacomino broadly concurs:  “It was hard for a while; there was governmental follow-up because a lot of the problems were originally down to politicians and they needed to show they were working on something.  But things have quietened down now.  Many clubs and parties, including ours, already did things in the right way; and those that didn’t have tightened things up so it’s all good now.  No problem.”

He is less optimistic about Brazil hosting the World Cup this summer.  Where the last tournament, held in South Africa four years ago, appeared to indirectly boost and strengthen its host nation’s already extensive house scene, there are doubts surrounding what impact a summer of high-profile football will have on Brazil’s relatively embryonic one.  “I’m actually scared by it” Jacomino admits.  “There are few parties and events happening but I think the World Cup will prove a distraction.  Many Brazilians are ashamed of what is happening; there are reports of corruption, the deaths of stadium workers, over-pricing, shitty public transportation...it is daily news.  No-one feels ready for this; I can’t see how it will benefit what we do.  But it’s only a few weeks I guess.”

And, all in all, Brazil’s electronic impetus is showing little sign of fizzling out, whatever concerns and issues continue to swirl around it.  “The south is particularly strong” Jacomino asserts.  “There’s a cool new club for underground music in Curitiba called Vibe – it’s like D-Edge, a little smaller but with a similar influence.  Rio is back on the agenda with a couple of new venues, and cities like Floripa and Camboriú are as strong as ever.  As for Brazilian artists, Funky Fat [with compatriots Digitaria] has released on Hot Creations and Fabo, a resident at Vibe, is also making waves.  There’s a lot of love, in general, for deep house.  Techno, too, is back; there’s some good things happening right there.”

Meme insists Brazil must make the most of its 2014 momentum:  “If we really focus now on a serious, professional change, we’ll be able to grab a substantial and fat piece of the market.”  Jacomino is confident a further step-change is achievable.  “There is much turbulence in Brazil this year, what with World Cup, government elections and a difficult economy; it costs so much for us to book DJs and run parties.  But Brazilians are happy, friendly people.  We like to party.  We have beautiful women, and beautiful settings.  All of these things are important and a real blessing for the future.  MOB next month will be a perfect example.   Our guests will have everything in one place – the music, stunning scenery and their cabin close by if they get lucky with someone else, or just want to crash.  It’s going to be amazing, and there’s lots more to come.”

Words: Ben Lovett

For more info on the MOB Festival head to www.mobfestival.com.br