Taipei Disco


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“The music on this EP was conceived in China, between 1989 and 1993. The original tracks were mixed to DAT in real time, in a small neighbour-proof studio inside my apartment in Macau, a 19th floor with a view to the hurricanes.
There’s a small, unexpected or improbable story behind each track, some little magic fused with the local atmosphere, certainly guaranteeing their lasting authenticity 25 years later.

Late 80s Guangzhou was an exotic city where the traditional past coexisted in harmony with the present and even already with the future.
I’d rather spend my weekends in Guangzhou than diving into Hong Kong consumerism - as most ex-pats in Macau did. I took a cab at the border and travelled 150 Km through chaotic roads with family and friends until reaching the hot, humid, mega South China metropolis.
We ate on street joints in the evenings, went on to a karaoke bar and ended up at Taipei Disco, the only proper club in town. All the others were inside hotels and played generic music or they were seedy, sleazy, smoky cabarets.
Taipei Disco used to be a cinema and played cantonese pop music and anglo-saxon pop/rock (that was new). The spacious dance floor was generously lighted, the atmosphere was airy and modern. Boys and girls were in the habit of dancing in pairs, one in front of the other, observing a respectful yet sensual distance. When the girl took a few steps back, the boy went along and vice versa. With legs and feet (more than the upper bodies) synchronized with the music, they never exceeded in extroversion. Cool.
I always carried a MicroComposer and a portable DAT recorder in my travels through China and weekends in Canton. Any spontaneous musical idea was imediately recorded and memorized. The MicroComposer allowed multitrack recording, which was very handy on the road. Based on the emphatic choreography of Taipei Disco’s dancers, i started to compose a rhythm track while sitting at a table, with headphones, listening to Cantopop in the background. As if by magic - not a rare occasion in music - everything began fitting together. Odd as it may seem, the track ended up sounding more germanic (Kraftwerkian) than Cantonese pop.

The story ends in a circle: the cantonese DJ at Taipei Disco, whom i used to ask to play certain records, wanted to play my music at the disco when it was basically only just a rhythm track and little else. From a cupboard under his set up he took out a battered keyboard (unrecognizable brand) and invited me to play over the track with the available sounds on the keyboard. The circle was complete, with Cantonese clubbers happily dancing forwards and backwards, as if it were another Cantopop hit.
I didn’t get payed but the house offered us free ice cream cups in which little Portuguese flags were sticked.
The track would be finished later, in studio, with vocoder strings ensemble and synth solos.

The live version of “Taipei Disco” was recorded during a live set at the China Pop venue, in Macau, 1993. China Pop was a rock club built in the ample space of an old fishing warehouse, located in the labyrinthic Inner Harbour area. It was decorated with large Mao Zedong and Cultural Revolution posters and memorabilia and had a unique atmosphere, fusing Pop Art with film noir. We began our performance at 1AM, pretty early for Macau’s nightlife standards. We were lucky. An audience showed up. And in Macau there were always several friends among the audience, which tranformed a musical performance into a relaxed party.
The atmosphere was particularly surreal on that night. The front row was dominated by French Crazy Horse dancers, a sort of Oriental Moulin Rouge. The girls had finished their last performance of the evening at the Crazy Horse and were still energized from their show. During our performance, right in front of us and perfectly synched, we could hear the famous irreverent screams of can-can dancers. You always had to expect the unexpected in Macau.

I was familiar with the Portuguese-speaking African countries well before having lived in China. I found myself returning several times to one in particular, always attracted by its magic and very distinct, identitary culture and music: Cape Verde.
During the early years of DWART a lot of the inspiration for drum machine rhythms (Roland’s TR series) came from African music, especially from new musical trends that gained full autonomy with Cape Verde’s independence from Portugal, as was the case with funaná.
I had the privilege of having known and befriended some of the greatest Capeverdian composers, musicians and singers during the 70s and 80s, such as Bana, Luís Morais, Cesária Évora, Paulino Vieira, Chico Serra, Tito Paris, and historical bands such as Bulimundo (ambassadors of funaná) and Os Tubarões (great innovators of morna, coladera and funaná, with the sonic impact of an afro-beat big band).
When Luís Filipe de Barros began playing Os Tubarões for the first time on Portuguese radio, that was the turning point for African music in Portugal. The “Tabanca” album was so widely heard and talked about that it quickly got a Portuguese release through one of the big labels of the time.
The mystic of this band from the Santiago Island would reach the East. Os Tubarões played to a packed room in Macau in 1992, and after the bombastic gig we arranged a dinner and party at my place.
We ate and drank generously and the moment came for a jam session at the small studio on the 19th floor. Because Os Tubarões didn’t all fit in the studio, we recorded an impromptu with only three of the musicians: Tótó Silva (electric guitar), Mário Russo Bettencourt (bass) and Zeca Couto (piano). And there we were improvising without barriers, suddenly detached from cultural roots, labels and constraints, a truly unique moment. The track is now being released exactly as it was recorded, imbued with the real communion between the musicians. And it could only be titled “Red Mambo”. I wish to dedicate it to the memory of Ildo Lobo and Jaime do Rosário, founders of Os Tubarões, sadly and too soon departed from the land of music."

António Duarte
Summer of 2017


released August 3, 2018

- Written and produced by DWART
- Recorded and mixed to DAT by António Duarte (Guangzhou and Macau, 1989/93)
- Mastered by João Ganho at Estúdio Ganho do Som, Lisbon, 2017

- "Red Mambo (impromptu" features:
Mário Russo Bettencourt: bass
Tótó Silva: electric guitar
Zeca Couto: keyboards


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