Artwork by Kim Laughton
DJ Marfox, born Marlon Quintas dos Santos e Silva, was raised in the ghetto suburbs of Lisbon, Portugal, quickly becoming a star and pioneer with his evolved interpretations of Kuduro and Tarraxinha music. His ancestry traces back to the former Portuguese colony of São Tomé e Príncipe.
Lucky Punch, his debut on Lit City Trax, showcases a multitude of DJ Marfox’s production styles across this six track EP. It’s a mix of progressive Kuduro and a previously unreleased Tarraxinha selection from Marfox’s vault.
Kuduro is functional dance-centric music that grew out of Angola in the late 1980s. Kuduro was influenced by Semba, imported House music, and samples from Caribbean carnival music. Tarraxinha is derived from traditional Angolan Kizomba. Far slower than Kuduro, Tarraxinha grew into a thriving electronic sub-scene that reached a creative peak in 2007. It is harder than Kizomba, tailored for the dance floor with pulsing subs and pelvic-thrusting rhythms. Alongside the quintessential Angolan beatmaker, DJ Znobia, DJ Marfox was reflected both scenes. Marfox is one of the foremost and pioneering producers of Afro-Portuguese music and its most well-regarded ambassadors.
DJ Marfox’s musical interests were shaped by his father, who was interested in Western and African popular music, as well as his cousin, DJ Tony. Marfox was taken in by the growing Kuduro scene as he quickly began establishing his own unique take on the music. By 2006, with the release of a visionary compilation – DJ’s do Guetto Vol. 1 – which included some of the most prominent DJs and producers in Portugal, an eighteen year old Marfox emerged as a major talent. The compilation represented the first time this number of Kuduro producers, all hailing from different parts of greater Lisbon, came together collectively.
Lucky Punch opens with Terra Batida; primordial, physical, and quintessentially Kuduro in its rhythms, while equally as progressive in its approach to synth-work and instrumentation. A stomping industrial vision, Noise reminds why Kuduro translates in Portuguese, quite literally, as hard ass (“cu duro”). An unrelenting square-wave bass bleeds into stripped down elements of Hard House.
The title track, Lucky Punch, is a screwface barrage of ancestral drums, and undulating vocal chops, based on flipped Semba polyrhythms. Beat and Break flips its patterns over and over again in constant flux, juxtaposing ferocious drums and huge rave synths – the soundtrack to a Afro-Caribbean carnival set far in the future.
Heartbeat is romantic Tarraxinha of paradoxical restrain. With a heart wrenching sub and moments of doubletime percussion, it is designed to glue bodies together on the dancefloor. Closing out the EP, Banda 52 is a minimalist marching drum track coupled with an unrelenting sub bass – techno flipped on its head.
The very core of Kuduro and Tarraxinha music is the high-definition and precision of fine-tuned syncopated percussion found across the entirety of Lucky Punch. DJ Marfox has a beautiful and ritualized way of navigating intuitively and fluidly through his music. His melodies paired with abstract sounds generate the trademark tension between tonality and atonality that make Kuduro sound so ahead of its time.