A beacon in the North of Brazil Belém is the largest city in the state of Pará and is the entrance to the mighty Amazon River.
Far from the jaw dropping scale of Sao Paulo and the tourist mecca that is Rio de Janeiro the 11th largest city of this Portuguese speaking country is the cultural and economic centre of the north.
Needless to say for Northern Brazilians this metropolis of just over two million people is the epicentre of music in their lives. The nightlife is traditionally South American, that is, late and wild. Driven by the rhythms of samba and new age beats the city has clubs for both.
More traditional music and dance is never to far away either. This city celebrates the modern tendencies of popular music as well as its past cultural highlights.
But where the northern city stands apart from the rest is in its own unique hybrid of music. Cultivated out of Belém’s poorer areas Technobrega is now heard across the city and the entire state of Para.
Technobrega combines, as its name alludes to, electronic beats with what the English translation of “bega” describes as cheesy sounds. Together they make soundscapes that DJs love to spin and the locals can’t stop dancing too.
Its value to the less privileged members of the city is exponential. As Ronal Lemos, a professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation says to the BBC, “people, sometimes in very poor areas, are appropriating electronic instruments like computers and synthesizers to create their own music”.
As Lemos states this is a phenomenon that is not only happening in Belém but in other poor cities around the world where people are experimenting with electronic music to find meaning in their lives.
Fundamentally Technobrega is also providing musicians a way to make an income in the city. Yet similar to western countries recorded music isn’t the main avenue of money. But unlike the music industry in the rest of the world Belém’s piracy is less to do with the internet and more with street sellers copying CDs and selling them cheaply.
However the music makers are nonplussed by this activity as it serves as an advertisement for their sound system parties held in spaces that vary from venues to public areas with the music played through the back of a van.
Belém may not be the most conventional choice for a travel destination amongst many other well-known Brazilian highlights. But the beauty of uncovering the city’s music scene is in finding the unexpected.
Na Figueredo, Av. Gentil Bittencourt, 449 Considered as one of the best music establishments in north Brazil this store has almost everything that Brazilian fans could ever want. You’ll find a large selection of recorded music from the country’s best musicians as well some of the more eccentric bands hailing from the South American country. The shops also sells a range of t-shirts and casual wear.
Shopping Pátio Belem, Travessa Padre EutíquioFormerly known as the Iguatemi Shopping centre this mall has now transformed itself into an upmarket area for designer clothing and expensive goods. The good news is that the shopping centre is still home to multiple bookshops and music stores. With over four floors you’re bound to find some great local music here.
Caso Do Gilson, Travessa Padre Eutíquio 3172
When we say this establishment is the city’s best music venue we have the fervent support of the locals to back us up. Voted as Belém’s best live music venue on numerous occasions you’ll experience everything from samba to choro and anything else you can think of. Opened in 1987 there is no other place that best represents Belém’s music scene.
Bohêmio Cervejaria, Av Visconde de Souza Franco
Great Brazilian food and great Brazilian music are combination that always go together and this establishment have the best of both worlds down pat. Don’t expect to pay anymore than $10 on food with the complimentary live music on the side ranging from popular to alternative. With an excellent sound system there are few places as good as this to catch a live band or two in Belém.
Cosanostra Caffé, Travessa Benjamin Constant 1499
During the day this dim establishment is a reprise for the working class on lunch break. Despite its unmarked entrance its little surprise lunch is so popular with a main meal and drink special setting you back less than $5 Australian dollars. However it is not until late when the musicians and their spectators show up. With bands kicking off from 11pm this café hosts grass roots acts.
Estação das Docas, Av Marechal Hermes
Shopping malls aren’t usually considered music attractions that tourists must see. But this recently refurbished section of riverfront warehouses has something that almost all can enjoy. Among the artsy shops, theatre, post office, historical displays and waterfront promenade is a live music platform, which moves up the rafters, rolling down the length of the dining area. Bands generally play most nights of the week.
Theatro da Paz, Rua da Paz, Centro
Peace Theatre, as the English translation goes, is one of the most revered theatres in the state of Para and is recognized across the country for its architectural neoclassical style. Built between 1869 and 1874 this establishment is one of the city’s greatest buildings. With the best acoustics in Belém Theatro da Paz hosts opera, presenters, artists and other creative types with a capacity audience of 1100. Tours of the building run hourly for 30 minutes between 9am to 5pm on weekdays and 9am-1pm on weekends.
Praca da Republica, Avenida Presidente Vargas S.N Campina
Tourists often visit local parks as they make their way through cities and Belém will be no different. The added bonus for international visitors is that the central park is often the place to catch local musicians – whether they are your average busker or something more – performing for free. If that doesn’t make Praca da Republica a worthy destination than the area’s delicious food undoubtedly will.
Belém Acts You Should Check Out
Coletivo Rádio Cipó – Facebook
Combining reggae, carimbo, roots and rock this outfit use digital technology and experimental video to integrate art into their performance. They play throughout the city often with their visual display and infectious rhythms garnering them a strong local fanbase.
Stress – Official Website
This three-piece were at the forefront of the birth of Brazil’s metal scene in the 70s. Their self-titled debut is considered as the first ever heavy metal album to be released in the country. Stress released their third album in 1995 after a hiatus, while rumours continue to swirl about another reformation. Listen to a live recording of the band below.