Nego Moçambique
Freak City Funk

How does electronic music sound in the capital of the Aquarian civilization? Spannered meets Marcelo de Jesus, aka Nego Moçambique

By Camilo Rocha

Brasília is not only the planned federal capital of Brazil, a neat display of modern, minimalist buildings designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer — it is also somewhere that the weird and mystical from Brazil and beyond have called home. According to seers, the place is heavily exposed to cosmic energy, while ufologists say it is a perfect landing point for extraterrestrial visitors, and so organise regular nocturnal watches there in the hope of close encounters. When Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin visited the city in the 60s, just months after becoming the first man in space, he remarked: “...the impression I have is that I'm arriving on a different planet”.
What's more, many esoteric scholars have referred to Brasília as the capital of the third millennium’s civilization, or capital of the Aquarian civilization. “Mysticism over here was so big; so many people got into it that today anything related to that can come across as cheesy or cartoonish,” states Marcelo de Jesus, otherwise known as Nego Moçambique. “Man, this place is full of freaks.”
Nego Moçambique has lived in Brasília all his life, and it's clear he's absorbed a lot of the city's freakiness. He is an ex-B-boy, ex-graffiti artist and, currently, musician, whose head habitually wanders in places unimaginable to most people. Brazil is a country overrun by the nauseous repetition of musical concepts and approaches, yet Nego Moçambique stands out as a leftfield maverick, a talented original, creating music that is his and no one else’s.

His recently launched second album, La Rumba Computer, confirms everything they say about Nego being slightly off the hook — starting with the CD packaging, whose complexity to manufacture delayed the release. In the end, 2000 elaborately designed cardboard boxes were made; inside, you find a CD in a traditional sleeve and a bunch of coloured plastic wires. The concept and cover art — a surreal collage of several references, half disturbing half amusing — are all Marcelo’s ideas. He has worked a lot in the visual area, but no longer has time for it since his musical career has taken off (his last freelance jobs were illustrations for famous Brazilian left-wing publication Caros Amigos).

According to Nego, his original intention was for the wires to be stuck to the bottom of the box. That couldn’t be done, so they remained loose. “They are like wire leftovers from a gig. But then people started to take the piss out of me saying it looked like modern art.” He tells me over the phone, giggling.

Music-wise the album is a lively party of loose analogue grooves, solid beats, quirky samples, Afro, breaks and funk references, all done with synths and the MPC (as with his visual art, Nego doesn’t use software or computers). There are loony cartoon vocals, sometimes Jamaican sounding, sometimes robotic, rolling out shreds of English, Spanish and Portuguese. “My vocals are like samples”, he explains. “They are like bits of speech, because I don’t speak any of these foreign languages to be honest. It is the voice as instrument.”

Those who have followed his work since his previous and first album, Nego Moçambique (2005), and through the hundreds of live PAs he has done up and down Brazil, will notice that Marcelo has been using his voice more and more. “The reason is that before I didn’t think it was cool to use my voice — I used to think people wouldn’t get into it. I didn’t think my voice was a big deal myself, but now it is really important.”

Not only the voice, but the treatment of it too. “In Automatic Love (Fonke Music), I put four of my voices to sing together. Others have doubled vocals, and other lots of phaser and delay. The idea is to leave it sounding really electronic, because this is not music to sing along to — music that you pay attention to the lyrics.”

It is dancefloor music, in other words. This is essential to Marcelo’s work, which is why he thinks of his rocking live PAs as if he were a DJ — i.e. no gaps between the tracks and a constant input of new material. “I’m fiddling with it everyday, I’m always doing something new. It is just like a DJ; I arrive at the club with the night well underway, there ain’t nothing of that “show” glamour, so I have to have material for this kind of situation.” However, he doesn’t just rely on the music to keep the crowd going — his stage antics are an integral part of the appeal: a non-stop succession of wonky-funky moves, karate kicks and robot chops.

One person who was particularly impressed by Nego’s live performances was Gigolo Records’ boss DJ Hell. There was talk that his label was to release La Rumba Computer, but nothing transpired. “It didn’t happen because I didn’t send the final mixes to him,” he explains, in his typical nonchalant, laidback way. “But we are still in touch and he wants me to send new stuff to him.”

My last question refers to his name: where does Nego Moçambique come from? “Ah, it was like this: there was a time when my dad was considered to be an adopted child. Then his real family was discovered and I found out that my real grandmother lived in a favela in Petropólis (near Rio de Janeiro). So my family has all the shades of black, from car tyre, through me, to people who have Afro-descendant features but totally white skin.”

“At that time I was reading a lot about slaves and the music they brought with them, and I learned that many came from Moçambique. I was also going through a very militant period, pro-black rights… so, amid all this context, the name appeared.”
Camilo Rocha is editor of Brazilian music site

 La Rumba Computer by Nego Moçambique is out now on Segundo Mundo
Contributors retain the copyright to their own contributions. Everything else is copyright © Spannered 2015.
Please do not copy whole articles: instead, copy a bit and link to the rest. Thanks!