In 1994, Portugal’s dance music scene was booming. City clubs and bars were serving up a heady cocktail of European trance, acid house, Detroit techno, and house music from New York and Chicago. Clandestine raves were beginning to pop up across the country. In the summer of that year, a huge party was held at a medieval castle in Santa Maria da Feira, with New York’s Danny Tenaglia and Dutch DJ Jaydee behind the decks. The party marked a pivotal moment in the history of Portuguese rave culture.
At the same time, Portugal’s alternative, off-the-grid party scene was also in full swing. The U.K.’s infamous free party collective, Spiral Tribe, landed in 1996 and settled at Fonte da Telha, near Costa da Caparica. Along with four other soundsystem communities—Total Resistance, APA, Kamikaze, and Furious—they threw a series of parties in clandestine locations around the country. “There were raves in castles, convents—stuff like that,” offers João Ervedosa, aka DJ Shcuro/José Acid, whose Lisbon label Paraíso is inspired by the sound of that era. “Apart from the clubbing scene, there was this big trance scene. People were coming to Portugal from all around the world.”
These were also crucial years for recorded dance music. Kaos Records, the country’s first electronic label founded by Portuguese producers Rui da Silva and DJ Vibe with promoter António Cunha, released essential records from The Ozone and Urban Dreams; the single “So Get Up” by the Underground Sound of Lisbon became an anthem, and New York legend Junior Vasquez was the first U.S. DJ to play the single during his night at Sound Factory. (It was later licensed to the label Tribal America, backed with remixes by Vasquez and Danny Tenaglia.) That moment marked the beginning of a long-lasting alliance between New York house and Portuguese dance music, one that continues to influence contemporary producers like Violet and Photonz.
“We all romanticize making music and DJing in Portugal in the early ‘90s,” says Ervedosa (who also works as a freelance graphic designer, DJ, and radio host). The name of his label, Paraíso (“paradise”), comes from a line used by a British publication in a story about the country’s rave scene: “Underground house music from a paradise called Portugal.” The label, with which Ervedosa seeks to recapture some of the original ‘90s energy, was inaugurated in 2016 with the first of three Genesis compilations, showcasing some of the Portuguese scene’s most essential new producers.
This March, Ervedosa launched a new sub-label of Paraíso called Rave Tuga (“Portuguese Rave”). With its tagline “against prejudice,” the label’s eponymous four-part charity compilation series celebrates the eclecticism of Portuguese dance music. A series like this has precedents: the Alcântara-Mar compilations of the ‘90s, mixed by the club’s resident DJs including DJ Jiggy and Luis Leite, captured the soundtrack of the time. But Ervedosa suggests that Rave Tuga might be the biggest compilation of Portuguese dance music in its history to date.
On Rave Tuga, Ervedosa joins the dots from Portugal’s heyday to the present, with scene veterans DJ Jiggy (as Daisy Chain), Alex FX, Urban Dreams (Alex Santos), and Model 9000 rubbing shoulders with current favorites like Violet, Caroline Letho, Odete, Photonz, Sheri Vari, Pedro, and more. Ervedosa has hosted two monthly radio shows on Lisbon’s beloved radio station Rádio Quântica since 2015, as well as a show on Portugal’s Antena 3. That gig provides him with a regular stream of demos from local producers. “It’s very inspiring, because you really have to love it to do it. It doesn’t pay to be a DJ or producer in Portugal.”
All of the profits from the Rave Tuga sales will go to Casa Qui, an organization that provides psychological support for LGBTQ+ young people and victims of abuse and violence. Ervedosa’s good friend marum, who co-founded Lisbon’s infamous mina club night, helped him select the charity. “I had heard about Casa Qui, so I ran it past marum for approval. It’s a small charity and they need more funds. What they do, they do out of love and compassion.”
When it came to selecting artists to feature in the series, Ervedosa says that there were “some obvious choices… some of these artists are very close to me, like Violet, Photonz/DJ Senior Vasquez, Santa Bárbara, or Emauz. Others are artists I really admire from growing up, like Wla Garcia’s ‘Forward Looking,’ Alex FX’s ‘Outbreak,’ or Morrice’s ‘Bias’—which are lost tracks from that era.”
The tracks on Rave Tuga are designed both for the dancefloor and the afterparty. Mind Safari’s cosmic “Interstellar Communication,” where handclaps and synths melt into each other like bodies on a dancefloor, is offset by the lacerating techno of “Overzen” by Photonz and BLEID’s eerie IDM “Me And The Dragon Still Chase All The Pain Away.” Elsewhere, “Sal (Tribal Dub)” by Internal NY Rhythms and 2Jack4U’s acid trance odyssey “808-10” pay homage to the sounds that shaped them.
“Some of the artists I asked to participate in the project were already on the label,” explains Ervedosa. “EDND and Lost In Space (as Roundhouse Kick), Internal NY Rhythms, Mind Safari, or Elite Athlete—all of them have been around since the beginning so it was a no-brainer, really.”
He continues: “I wanted to include music from artists I admire and never got an opportunity to release music from them on Paraíso before. I’m lucky to have many talented friends who make such amazing music.”