“speakeasy” on TTnode

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During its time at Jan van Eyck Academie fugitive radio will host a monthly “speakeasy”, as a testing ground for emergent radiophonic formats. These might include sound art, music, poetics, conversation pieces and other forms yet to be discovered and named. fugitive radio seeks to make a space for experimentation, spontaneity and improvisation.

In the coming months the speakeasy will broadcast live at irregular times and from different geographic locations, but always online at TTnode, a decentralised network of servers, antennae and DAB+ (digitial audio broadcasting) boxes scattered around France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The inaugural speakeasy will occur on Friday 20 January 2023 from studio 111 at the Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht NL. You’re welcome to join from 17.00 and we will go live between 18.00–19.00.

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 1: “techno samba” live mix

A textured photograph of trees rising up from a field of grass at Residencia São João, Brazil.

Tracklist
01. 0:00:00 Simulacrum – Samba tem digital
02. 0:04:02 Juan Atkins – Other Side Of Life
03. 0:07:10 Der Zyklus – Diffeomorphism
04. 0:09:32 MU – Out of Breach
05. 0:12:12 Phuture – Acid Tracks (12″ Version)
06. 0:16:38 Adonis – No Way Back (Instrumental)
07. 0:21:26 Model 500 – NO UFO’S (Instrumental)
08. 0:26:46 Simulacrum – Zona Contacto
09. 0:28:12 DJ Joe Lewis – Acid Falls (Original Mix)
10. 0:30:52 Da Posse – It’s My Life (Aluh mix)
11. 0:34:52 Steve Poindexter – Computer Madness
12. 0:37:24 Despina – Alexa In Disrepair
13. 0:40:16 Traxman – BAD INDIGESTION
14. 0:43:46 Simulacrum – Bloco Techno
15. 0:47:44 Der Zyklus – Eigenface (Facial Asymetry)
16. 0:50:46 Model 500 – Digital Solutions

Riddim writing, software affordances, rhythmachine music.
This mix is far from perfect. It was recorded live and thus presents a “snapshot” of my thinking/feeling “in-the-mix”. It was made using MIXXX, a free/livre and open source (FLOSS) DJing/podcasting software and with a near pocket-sized Numark DJ2GO2 Touch USB controller that I bought last year to use while on a series of residencies in Brazil. The device compromises on controls for size, so it does not have separate pots for Hi/Mid/Low EQs on each channel that would seem essential for mixing. Instead it has a single knob that is mapped on MIXXX to a Lo/Hi cut sweep filter.

These genres of music are also relatively unfamiliar to me. I learned to mix garage, grime, dancehall, desi, baile funk, hip hop and what became known as “global bass” in the early 2000s, performing as Sven Simulacrum. I stopped around 2012 to focus on other research interests. Recently I’ve been curious about the abstract sonics and asymmetrical rhythms of “experimental dance music” (EDM) often made by producers who are “adjacent” to established genres such as footwork (Jlin) and ballroom (quest?onmarc) alongside high energy styles forwarded by labels including Principe, Lisbon and Yes No Wave, Yogyakarta. Music that I’m tentatively calling “other technos”.

The notion of “techno samba” emerged during fugitive radio’s recent time in Brazil, and particularly while in residence at Residência São João (RSJ); a farm, coffee plantation and self-organised artist space in the countryside of Rio De Janeiro in late October–November 2022. RSJ is reputed for its somsocosmos music residency, so I sought to spend my time there to working on sound production. Before leaving São Paulo late in October, I met with Coletivo Digital [Instagram] at their space in Pinheiros and my first task at RSJ was to I edit our conversation for a podcast. The collective had sent me a song to use, “Canção tem samba” by Trilha Sonora, recorded in their FLOSS studio and I’d thought to make a remix, also using FLOSS; specifically a suite of programs I was working with for Thalaam Riddim Reapers, alongside Luci Dayhew and Brendy Hale. Simultaneously, I undertook the same process with the popular proprietary music production and performance software Ableton Live, to understand the different affordances of these digital tools. I must admit, I was much happier with the results in Ableton and continued to use it to develop what became “Samba tem digital”, thinking once I was done I would return to a FLOSS set-up.

I should have seen it coming, but after some days of tinkering I opened a folder of musical skeletons I began in Ableton, 2018, when I first visited Brazil. At that time I was working on an urban research/cooking project, but had some inkling beforehand that Brazil would re-ignite my interest in music, as I had purchased a small USB keyboard that came packaged with an LE version of the software. In Rio I intuitively began making recordings on my smartphone of music I would hear everyday in my unfamiliar surrounds. This was also during the time of the presidential elections and there were regular demonstrations—manifestaçãoes—in the streets and plazas, notably the ele não campaign against Jair Bolsonaro, who went on to win by a significant margin. In Rio, I began to transcribe some of the rhythms I had recorded into MIDI—“riddim writing” is how I described it, as it bore some resemblance to writing, editing and fine-tuning text. After the patterns were entered into the software, I would run them through different drum kits and samples. Swapping drum kits on the fly is simple to do in Ableton and can lead to surprising results. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I sent a couple of riddims to some friends whom I thought might be interested to voice them, but received little response. Later I dropped them into fugitive frequency podcasts, just to put them to some use and to “see” how they sounded.

At RSJ, I was the sole inhabitant at figuera, a ground level cottage by an unsealed road that ran through the property, that could have easily housed four or five more residents. I had a small PA at my disposal and would often spend my nights mixing tracks, knowing that I wouldn’t be keeping anyone awake. My closest neighbour, Javier, was maybe 20 meters or so down the road. While I would make noise in the evenings, he would wake up early to practice trumpet and we never seemed to bother each other. Prior to moving to RSJ during the COVID pandemic, Javier was based in Rio where he’d been involved in a gallery/project space where I believe he was brewing beer, a practice he was carrying on at RSJ.  I asked if he was thinking to play trumpet with others—maybe join a samba bloco?—a popular sport of sorts in Brazil. He said something about playing in a “techno samba” group and I was intrigued.

In July last year Kode9/Steve Goodman released his album Escapology (2022). Like many others, I have much respect for the London based DJ, Hyperdub label boss and theorist. Alongside his colleague Kodwo Eshun, whose book More Brilliant than the Sun (1998) unleashed a slew of concepts concerned with black alienation, technology and “rhythmachine music”, Goodman has been a steady influence on my thinking about sound and EDM. At RSJ I listened to some recent interviews in which he recalled his early love for jungle, which reminded me of the “hardcore continuum”, a termed coined by another of Goodman’s contemporaries, music journalist Simon Reynolds. It describes morphing but consistent musical genres and scenes that extended from early hardcore rave in the late 1980s UK, to jungle, drum and bass, garage, grime and dubstep and its ecology of record shops, pirate radio stations, parties, promoters and clubs. The notion of a hardcore continuum has propelled my interests in EDM from the time that jungle and drum and bass first entered my consciousness growing up in Sydney, and a curiousity to tap back into it is what prompted me to start mixing again for fugitive radio.

It was again the time of the presidential election when I returned to Brazil in September 2022, and shortly after I arrived at RSJ a second run-off election was scheduled. While now relatively removed from the action in the bigger cities, the mood at the fazenda and among its community was anxious. On the day I arrived, I was swept up in a manifestação organised in the nearby town of São José do Vale do Rio Preto. The following weekend, on the 30 October election the working class icon and former president, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva defeated Bolsanaro by a narrow margin, indicating that the country remained polarized.

So it was strange to find myself in the after glow of the elections and among RSJ’s idyllic surroundings in late Spring, turning to Reynolds’ 2012 book Energy Flash, which recounts his experiences of early rave and jungle in the UK, and following the scene as it transformed in the US. Early in his book Reynolds interviews Juan Atkins who coined the term “techno” to describe the music he and his friends were developing in Detroit, inspired by his high school readings of Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock (1970) and its sequel The Third Wave (1980), which includes references to “Techno-Rebels” who “embraced technology as a means of empowerment and resistance”. Reynolds recounts Atkins describing himself as a “warrior for the technological revolution” (Reynolds 2012). For me, Atkin’s attitude reminds me of the techno-optimism of early net culture and open source movements; perhaps a “past potential future” to use a phrase associated with the Otolith Group, a collaboration/collective co-founded by Eshun and Anjalika Sagar in 2002, known for their film-essays. Reynolds points out that Atkins and his friends and collaborators, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson—mythologised as the Belleville Three—used the term “techno” to distinguish themselves from the other black dance music gaining popularity in the UK: house from Chicago. In his recent history of Detroit techno, Assembling a Black Counter Culture (2022), DeForrest Brown Jr [Instagram] notes that May preferred the term “High Tech Soul”, which became the name of a 2006 documentary.

Reynolds describes house music as “inorganic”: “machines talking to each other, in an un-real acoustic space” (2012: “New Jack City), which resonated with my experiences of working with software. He emphasises the musical form of the “track” (ie a drum track) rather than a song (2012: “Disco’s Revenge”), as a tool developed by house music DJs such as Frankie Knuckles (1955–2014); “house” being a contraction of “Warehouse”, the Chicago club where Knuckles honed his skills. Initially made on reel-to-reel tape, these would be used to mix, supplement and extend long instrumental sections of records. So the “techno drum track” became the point of reference to the music I was developing at RSJ and I adopted Javier’s phrase, “techno samba”, to describe it.

I’m aware of a recent re-appraisal of techno in sound studies, black studies, queer studies and contemporary art. For example, the short film Black to Techno (2019) by Jenn Nkiru, comissioned by Frieze and Gucci for their series Second Summer of Love (2019) recalling the music-driven cultural revolution of 1988.

Indeed, madison moore and McKenzie Wark, editors of a recent edition of e-flux Journal themed “Black Rave” (December 2022), issue a call to develop the field of “Techno Studies”.

Most significant is the campaign to “Make Techno Black Again”, fronted by the aforementioned writer and musician DeForrest Brown Jr/Speaker Music. With his interests firmly rooted in the black working class experience of Detroit, Brown Jr’s book Assembling a Black Counter Culture (2022), proposes to delink techno from the hardcore continuum and its associations with (European) rave culture and rather re-frame it as a distinct African American artform and “embodied aural history”. Perhaps a hardcore discontinuum?

Deforrest Brown Jr sits cross-legged on a polished floor. Dressed in black, he wears a “Make Techno Black Again" cap, a covid face mask and is reading from Kodwo Eshun’s book "More Brilliant than the Sun" (1998).
DeForrest Brown Jr reading Kodwo Eshun’s More Brilliant than the Sun. Photo: Ting Ding 2020

Brown Jr presents his thoughts as an extension of Eshun’s writing and he also responds to ideas raised by Goodman in his book Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect and the Ecology of Fear (2012). In the podcast below produced by Haus der Kulteren der Welt, Berlin and Camden Art Centre, London, 2021, Brown Jr, Goodman and musician Nkisi discuss the migration of techno from Detroit to Europe.

While I’m still working my way through Brown Jr’s detailed volume, it has pointed me towards some interesting music and history, some of which appears in this mix, notably the “acid house” tracks: Phuture’s “Acid Tracks” (1987), Adonis’ “No Way Back” (1986) and Steve Poindexter’s “Computer Madness” (1989). I’m also curious about the continuity of acid house in footwork, as can be heard in productions by Traxman (AKA Corky Strong), whose “Bad Indigestion” from his Acid Lyfe (2018) release also features in this mix. His 2019 reworking of Steve Poindexter’s “Work that Mutha Fucker” (1989), pressed on the same record as “Computer Madness”, is another notable track.

Another influence is Brown Jr’s descriptions of how house DJ’s would loop and mix instrumental rhythms breaks and drum tracks, into repetitive hypnotic sequences that could last up to an hour or more—“music that would never stop”, according to Larry Levan (1954–1992) the legendary DJ at the New York’s Paradise Garage in the 1980s. A combination of these readings and the qualities of these musics have led me to attempt looping and crossfading back and forth between tracks more than I am accustomed to doing, and admittedly with mixed results, nevertheless giving a sense of where “techno samba” might go. Another technique I’m curious to experiment with, but am limited by my current set-up, is the “rhythmic fader” DJing techniques of Derrick May (listen here) and that I find reminiscent of another influence on my mixing, Venus X (listen here). (Incidentally Venus X also features in Wu Tsang’s contribution to the Freize and Gucci series, Into a Space of Love (2019) concerned with New York House.)

While I am processing Brown Jr’s arguments in this mix, as a testing ground for thought, I nevertheless regard my approach to techno is in its most generic sense, ie rhythmic dance music made with machines.

fugitive radio rádio em fuga in Brazil 2022 was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.

Constant: “Techno-Cul-de-Sac” in MARCH

A close up image of four DIY radio transmitters rendered in lo-res gif. A tangle of copper coils, metal plates, electronic components and wires

fugitive radio attended the “Techno-Cul-de-Sac” worksession, November 20–25, 2022, organised by Constant in Brussels. Co-convened by members Martino Morandi and Peter Westenberg it proposed a collective encounter with Brussels via an investigation of zoning, infrastructure, and technology, bringing together artists, architects, and urban researchers. While the worksession was not about radio per se, radio was the medium that underpinned our activities, concluding as a live “alleycasting” broadcast assisted by Radio Panik and p-node.org. My report for MARCH, “Techno On the Radio” is here. Notably, materials used are licensed with Copyleft 2022 Constant: you may copy, distribute, and modify this material according to the terms of the Collective Conditions for Re-Use (CC4r) 1.0.

fugitive frequency, season 2, episode 12: Rádio Santos Dumont

Rádio Santos Dumont mise-en-scéne. A white steel gate is in the foreground of a street scene, framing the base of a rounded building. A group of are gathered on plastic chairs an tables in front of a shopfront. A Row of motorcycles is to the left and a white ‘Kombi’ van to their right. The asphalt is wet with rain.

Foto: Gabriel Carnelós 2022

A conversation with Toronto-based radio artist Andrew O’Connor [Instagram] and Todd Lanier Lester one of the founders of Lanchonete.org, an urban research and artist project based around a neighbourhood lunch counter in Conjunto Santos Dumont in central São Paulo.

Late in September 2022, Andrew installed a site-specific radio artwork in the laneway of Conjunto Santos Dumont, based around a series of interviews he conducted with the residents with the assistance of local architect, urbanist and interpreter Gabi Ushida.

On the first weekend of October we collaborated on ‘Rádio Santos Dumont’; a day of workshops, events and performances alongside Merien Rodrigues of Itinero Grapho [Instagram] who runs a mobile printmaking studio and workshops from her Kombi van, and with journalist Amber Cortes, and illustrator Carl Nelson who had traveled from the US to be in Brazil during the presidential elections (2 October). Local musicians Gabriel Edé [Instagram] and Vitor Wutzki [Instagram] contributed a very successful songwriting workshop. Carol Godefroid [Instagram] and Gabriel Carnelós [Instagram] provided live translations (and photodocumentation) and their voices feature in this episode alongside those of Francisco Josepha de Castro AKA Chico and Nadija.

Woven through this episode are excerpts from Andrew O’Connor’s radio installation and edits of a recording of São Paulo-based musician Felinto [Bandcamp] whose performance closed the first day of the event.

Special mention must go to the people of Conjunto Santos Dumont who welcomed us: notably Liduina whose fruit shop was a base for our activities and Tarcisio, whose bar is the base for Lanchonete.org.

fugitive frequency, season 2, episode 11: Coletivo Digital “make open source great again!”

a view of the entrance of coletivo digital in São Paulo. From a distance, four people stand in front of a shop front window. A sign above them reads ‘Coletivo Digital’ and is partially obscured by overhangin trees. A mural with a leaf design is painted on he adjascent wall.

A conversation with Beá Tibiriçá, Wilken Sanches and Hernani Dimantas, the founders of Coletivo Digital [Instagram], an organisation who have been developing software livre, digital integration and open culture in São Paulo for around 20 years. We met on 12 October (a holiday for o dia de nossa senhora aparecida) at Coletivo Digital’s space in the Pinheiros neighbourhood, which serves as a gallery, performance venue and also houses a recording studio that runs on free and open source software. The podcast features the song ‘Canção tem samba’, by Trilha Sonora, which was recorded here.

Our conversation, with translations and contributions by Wagner Miranda [Instagram] occurred after the first presidential elections on 2 October which were inconclusive. A second run-off election had been announced for October 30 and when we met the collective were actively campaigning ‘for democracy’.

Mentioned in our conversation are: Free Software Foundation, Legislation Marco Civil da Internet and LGPD – data protection law Brasil.

A published report of a remarkable project, Redes e Ruas, realised by Coletivo Digital in 2015 can be accessed here.

Many thanks to Merien Rodrigues and Thiago Esperandio for making this recording possible.

fugitive radio rádio em fuga in Brazil 2022 is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.

rádio contra o trabalho, Instituto Procomum 18–20 outubro

A group of 8 people. In the foreground, 6 of them are seated on wooden chairs with their backs to us. In the background, 2 of them stand before a computer that is placed on a long table.

rádio contra o trabalho do Instituto Procomum transmitir ao vivo quinta-feira 21.10, entre 18-20horas!

rádio contra o trabalho convenes a working group at Instituto Procomum, Santos, São Paulo. Over three consecutive evenings we will collectively explore streaming audio/radio using free, open source or otherwise accessible tools.

I very much appreciate Gustavo, Fabio, Igor, Almir, Fernando and Danielo joining on a chilly rainy evening alongside Calu, our remarkable interpreter.

I first came to Procomum almost exactly four years ago, where I initiated ‘almoço contra o trabalho’ as part of the organisations LabXSantos artist residency program, November 2018. Notably this was right after the presidential election. Here, I was luck enough to meet and collaborate with the very talented Diego Andrade [Instagram] and Victor Sousa [Instagram]. Diego is currently off the radar, nevertheless it was great to reconnect with Victor.

As expected, there have been some technical hiccups. Initially, my laptop went down and refused to reboot. After an anxious afternoon trouble shooting online and visiting a Mac repair agent in Santos, it seems that the problem was with the power source at Procomum. Then as Victor and I attempted to set up a podcast studio computer we were unable to connect to the internet due to a modem problem. ‘This is how it is in the third world’ quipped Victor, shrugging it off. As a work around I sought out free and accessible audio streaming tools that could work on Android devices. As expected, I stumbled on incompatibility issues between apps and platforms. Certainly, this is an issue that fugitive radio emphasises with its interest in radio as a social practice with experimental technology. Nevertheless it remains frustrating! While Gustavo located another modem to bring our computer online, the group decided to investigate Twitch as a popular and accessible streaming tool that could be used during the upcoming Virada Cultural weekend of events in Santos, 22–23 Outubro.

I was taken by the term gambiarra that Danielo used to describe his practice, which I understand as a kind of hacking, adhoc and improvised approach to getting things done and reminds me of what Suva Das described to me as jugaad technology in India. According to artist Giuliano Obici in Gambioluthiery: Hacking and DIY in Brazil [PDF], gambiarra has a distinctly Brazilian twist, related to notions of antropofago and carnevale; reversing “the order of artifacts, serving as a carnivalization of technique, technology and design.” Obici is concerned with musical instruments and sound art practices, proposing that his: “Gambioluthiery reinforces connections between sound and its materiality as well as the paradoxical gaps between advantage and limitations that techno-consumption produces globally.”

fugitive frequency, season 2, episode 10: rádio em fuga, São Paulo

Brazilian politician Marina Silva poses for a camera with a supporter who is clutching a sign declaring "VOTE PELO CLIMA!"

fugitive radio landed in São Paulo, Brazil in the midst of the 2022 presidential election, taking up residence in the Bixiga neighbourhood where it is being hosted by Lanchonete.org at Conjuntos Santos Dumont. This episode of fugitive frequency is a collage of sounds collected around central São Paulo in the days leading up to the October 2 election, which was inconclusive. A run off election is scheduled for 30 October between the two remaining presidential candidates — the incumbent ultra-nationalist Jair Bolsonaro and former-president representing the workers party (PT), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known simply as Lula.

Music is what first piqued my interest in Brazil when I was teenager. When I was last here, during the 2018 presidential elections, my language tutors would often emphasise that the folk and popular music of Brazil kept a social history of the country that had been a dictatorship for much of its existence and in which illiteracy was still relatively high. As I was making these recordings, I sought to tease out the musicality of the everyday, however listening back I recognised a familiar melody threaded through most of my recordings. “Olé olé-olé olé…” As Marina Marchesan [Instagram] pointed out to me, it is a familiar football chant re-purposed for the iconic statesman Lula. I wonder if any other politician has a catchy jingle, and one that is so readily incorporated into any number of genres? (Out walking one morning I found myself among a Lula blocco in Bixiga where this anthem was impressed into my conscience. Also, kudos to Clarissa Aidar [Instagram] for inviting me to the Pensante Monde blocco carnaval rehearsal soon after where this melody was once again played.)

Melody, and in particular catchy jingles, are a recurring motif of this podcast that captures some of the soundscape/soundclash of this Latin American megacity. Device notifications, arguably jingles of sorts, disrupt the playback of regional pop songs in local bars. Noise—traffic, alarms and the distortion of audio equipment— textures these recordings, sometimes punctuating the sound in amusing ways. In a networked world where we are all ‘prosumers’, people’s reactions to my microphone reveals something about our relationship to audio/media culture, for example when a group of boys break our conversation to speak directly into my microphone.

Language (and translation) emerges as another theme, as at times speakers of português and english overlap. As a português language-learner I certainly don’t understand all that is being discussed, and I’ve found that different strands of information and meaning emerge by listening between languages, sounds and music (I think of discussions around noise/signal/information). For example, early in the podcast is a recording of Marina Silva (main image) addressing a climate justice rally on Friday 23 September via a troublesome sound system. Silva is a politician with Rede Sustentabilidade (Sustainability Network) REDE. She was formerly Environment Minister in Lula’s government (2003–2008), a presidential candidate (2014) and is world renown for her environmental activism. When editing, I often find myself listening to the sound of the recording rather than what is being said; for its musicality or ‘charisma’.

Another section documents a songwriting workshop led Gabriel Edé [Instagram] and Vitor Wutzki [Instagram] for Rádio Santos Dumont, 1 October. Sheltering from the rain in Luduina’s fruit and vegetable shop as other activities, conversations and exchanges continued on around them, Edé and Wutzki’s workshop culminated in the performance of ‘carro e água’ (circa 36 mins) with the local youth: Pitter, Thiago and Gabriel.

Towards the end of the podcast is a recording of Cicero D. Silva and his band busking on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of Avenida Paulista. With the major corridor free of car traffic for some hours, I drifted into this trio of elderly men performing hypnotic music on drum, triangle and piano accordion.

Cicero D. Silva and band busking on Avinida Paulista. Three elderly men in peasnat hats and patterned shirts perform in fron of a metal structure covered in graffiti tags. From left to the right the men play a raound drum, a piano accordian and a triangle. A suitcase is propped open before them for contributions.
Cicero D. Silva and band busking on Avinida Paulista.

Many thanks to the residents of Conjunto Santos Dumont for their hospitality and a special mention to Todd Lanier Lester [Instagram] and Andrew O’Conner [Instagram], the architects of Rádio Santos Dumont.

fugitive radio: rádio em fuga in Brazil is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.

To make a community radio

Two walls form a corner at the rear of Conjuntos Santos Dumont, São Paulo. A shadowy figure stands with their back to us, affixing posters to the wall.

Rádio Santos Dumont launched on Saturday 17 September 2022. Andrew O’Conner installed FM transmitters located at three different stations along the internal roadway, including in Tarcisio’s bar and Liduina’s fruit and vegetable shop. These are broadcasting interviews Andrew had recorded with residents some months earlier with Gabi Ushida, effectively collecting oral histories of this particular enclave in the megalopolis of São Paulo. Andrew and Todd Lanier Lester from Lanchonte.org had invited Marina and Fernanda of Publication Studio to run a poster-making workshop using stamps to engage with local children. The night before I’d assisted Liduina and her daughter Rosa in making trays of ‘gnocchi’ (made with flour, milk, salt and oil, but not potatoes!).

Two images of an elderly making pasta.  She is wearing a black jacket and jeans, with her hair under a net The first image she is needing the dough. In the second she is displaying a tray full of freshly made gnocchi.

Friends of Lanchonete.org came by during the afternoon, including Carol Godefroid who took photographs and her son Gabriel Carnelós who will also join our upcoming event on October 1 & 2. Todd and I have been out talking to residents and putting up posters promoting the event that alongside Andrew’s radio installation also features: Itinero Grapho’s Kombi printing press, a DIY/DWO percussion instrument making workshop with New York-based documentary film and radio maker Amber Cortes, a songwriting workshop with musicians Gabriel Edé and Vitor Wutzi from São Paulo and BYO t-shirt screen printing that I’m learning via trial and error and will manage on the day with illustrator and animator Carl Nelson, who will also be arriving from New York. There will be music — I’m working on ketchupe dj — and we also hope to make some more recordings on the day around these different activities.

I’ve also been thinking about how this radio intervention — our festa do rádio – is a critical urban practice. There has been some discussion around lumbung radio how online radio occupies and reclaims digital space, with minimal bandwidth and audio formats that don’t demand the same kind of attention as (audio)visual media. fugitive radio often claims that these days ‘everyone has a podcast but who is listening?’. The notion that ‘noone is listening’ shifts fugitive radio’s emphasis on radio making as a social practice with technology rather than as a production task. fugitive radio aligns with Helsinki Open Waves in its interest in migrant voices and with collaborators such as {openradio} and the aforementioned lumbung radio in emphasising open content and using free and open source tools. As such, fugitive radio may not make what by convention constitutes ‘well-produced’ radio content, but rather has made a political decision to work with certain people and technologies. Indeed community-based media in itself could be understood as a critique of corporate media, and especially media monopolies such as Grupo Globo in Brazil.

So how do such ideas arrive in Conjuntos Santos Dumont, where I have only a rudimentary grasp of the language; where I have been introduced to only a handful of people who may not have any interest in or access to such technologies? What is fugitive radio doing here?

Certainly fugitive radio has had an interest in Brazil since it began, inspired by the ‘barraca’ beach bars in Rio and protest sound systems that I experienced when I was here during the last presidential election in 2018. It also makes reference to a recent independent feminist server movement emerging out of Latin America that includes vedetas in São Paulo. Lanchonete.org provides an (urban) art context that fugitive radio has entered into and is continuing its practices that include: field recordings, riddim production, conducting interviews and experimenting with live broadcast formats (such as rádio caminho)… and now simple simple silk screen printing. But what does this mean for the residents of Conjuntos Santos Dumont?

Radio Santos Dumont installs a novel radio infrastructure in the lane that threads through the buildings. While Andrew has interviewed locals and has presented a version of what local radio can do, I wonder how they might also access it; perhaps initially as listeners and also as participants/producers? In short, to make community radio first you need a community…don’t you? So it is striking that none of us involved in initiating Radio Santos Dumont actually live there — indeed we are by-and-large gringos, not even from São Paulo. So is Radio Santos Dumont for the (arts) community who support Lanchonete.org? Certainly it is employing locals (both from the conjunto and the city more broadly), so it might pique some interest in a context where funding for experimental social practices is scarce. So then, will a community of sorts emerge from the task of producing the event?

A hand drawn handbill promoting Radio Santos Dumont, encouraging people to ‘bring their talent’, ‘bring their memories’ and ‘bring a t-shirt’.

I am struck by our efforts to engage residents with our radio intervention. After seeing the Rádio Santos Dumont design conceived by Todd and finalised by Carl and Thiago Correia Gonçalves, I was compelled to make a silk screen, convinced that if I would want it on a t-shirt, so would others. (I recall Todd mentioning that he thought t-shirts might promote a sense of identity for residents, and that differs from its lingering reputation for drug traffic.) Furthermore, Todd printed off a stack of handbills that I am now giving to people I meet in the elevator at 14 Bis. I am renting out a ‘kitchenete’ in this tallest building of the enclave, overlooking the internal laneway — which I’m assured is a quintessential São Paulo experience.

Finally, I must mention the Presidential Elections on October 2, which is arguably the reason so many of us gringos are convening in Conjunto Santos Dumont — to get a sense of what it is like on the ground and to experience what happens during this historical moment. Brazilians are polarised by the presidential candidates, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and a former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and friends here say they are anxious about the consequences of the election. From what I’ve seen, Conjunto Santos Dumont is no different. While we have not made the elections the focus of Rádio Santos Dumont, it will invariably set the context in which it occurs.

rádio em fuga

A close-up. of Todd Lanier Lester of lanchonete.org putting up a poster promoting Radio Santos Dumont

fugitive radio has arrived in São Paulo where it will be based for the following months. Hitting the ground running, it is currently working with Lanchonete.org and notably its founder Todd Lanier Lester, who is pictured above putting up a poster for our upcoming event, Radio Santos Dumont.

Lanchonete.org is an artist-led cultural platform concerned with Conjunto Santos Dumont, and enclave of three buildings and their occupants that oversee a narrow alley way off Rua Paim in central São Paulo. Designed by engineer Aaron Kogan, construction of the buildings began in 1956. Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873-1932) was an aeronaut and inventor. A contemporary of the Wright brothers, the buildings that comprise the Conjunto are named after aeroplanes he designed: Desmoiselle, 14 Bis and Caravelle. The 4000 or so occupants of the 1097 apartments have a link to the North-East of Brazil, and Todd describes it as the largest group of North-Easterners living together in São Paulo.

Engineer Aaron Kogan’s rendering of Conjunto Santos Dumont, a residential enclave of three modernist residential buildings in central São Paulo.
A formal rendering of Conjuncto Santos Dumont designed by Aaron Kogan. Sourced from Lanchonete.org.

Toronto-based artist Andrew O’Conner has been developing a radio installation here in recent months. Based around interviews with locals he will present an oral history of the community. Now together with Lanchonete.org and its partners, notably Tarcisios’ bar and also Merien Rodrigues of Itinero Grapho and Publication Studio São Paulo, fugitive radio is working towards an event I’m describing as a mini festa do rádio. Radio Santos Dumont will occur on Saturday 1 October with broadcasts spilling over into the following day with. More details to follow.

fugitive radio’s programme in Brazil, rádio em fuga, is generously supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. Muito obrigados a Kadija de Paula for introducing me to Lanchonete.org.