The rhythm grabs you by the knees, starts bending them on every second and fourth beat, and before you know it, your head's bobbing uncontrollably to deep, downbeat surdo drums; the sharp snap of caixa snare drums; and the steady clapping of hands. This is the infectious rhythm of Brazilian music, and Phoenix-based DJ Seduce is obsessed with spreading it across the Valley.
Born Miguel Ivery, DJ Seduce stared playing saxophone when he was 7, drums when he was 14, and bass when he was 20. In the past 11 years, DJ Seduce has become one of the most prominent advocates of Brazilian music, founding Afro:Baile Records, which exclusively showcases up-and-coming Brazilian artists and is the only independent Brazilian label in the United States. At the end of the year, he'll be traveling to Brazil to meet some of his artists.
And to think the day Ivery decided to become a DJ, back in 2000, started as just another boring day for him.
He got up, made some breakfast, and got dressed in a professional-looking button-down shirt and slacks for his corporate gig at an insurance company in North Scottsdale. At his desk job, one of the highlights of his day was going to get lunch across the street.
There, he chatted up the Roly Poly deli's staff, which just so happened to consist of several Valley DJs. One of them, DJ Pickster, would describe his DJ exploits, and Ivery soon envisioned himself spinning records instead of shilling himself in a white-collar world.
Then his little brother got a DJ-in-a-box set. It wasn't much, but it was enough for Ivery to get his fingers working and learn the basics of the craft. And when he won OM Records' complete catalog through a magazine contest, the DJ stuff got a little more serious. Ivery practiced for a year using his brother's equipment and his newfound music.
When he got laid off from the insurance company, Ivery didn't fret. He looked at the abundance of time he now had to really give it a go as a Valley spinster. He applied for a gig at the now-closed Ball Park Pub in Tempe, where he lied and said he'd been playing house parties for a while. Even though the restaurant had CD turntables — which Ivery had never seen because he'd been practicing on vinyl — he was hired.
Standing behind turntables in a crowd was a little different from what Ivery had been used to as a musician. The 33-year-old Valley native grew up in what he describes as a multicultural, musical home, with a soul- and funk-loving dad who DJ'd functions and a mom who introduced him to jazz, country, and Led Zeppelin.
After honing his DJ skills throughout the early '00s at spots such as AZ 88 and The Owl's Nest, Ivery started P.A.I.N.T. in 2004, a weekly night dedicated to spoken word, live art, and music at the now-closed Paper Heart. He also started the Afro:Baile event in 2006, a dance night focused on African music's influence in Latin America. He'd bring in a variety of artists from Central and South American countries to play the events, and wanted to put out a compilation featuring the musicians who'd played. Why not start his own label?
"I realized all this Africanism was linked in all the Latin American countries in the Caribbean," Ivery says. "I wanted the label to be based strictly on that rhythm."
He released Afro:Baile: The Southern Root in 2008 and then signed some of his first artists, including Yaaba Funk and The Afrodelic Stegosaurchestra. Though he enjoyed different types of world music, his heart had been with Brazilian beats since he heard a remix of Jorge Ben's "Take It Easy My Brother Charlie." That was the first time Ivery had delved into an African Brazilian artist, and he fell in love with the musical style.
"Brazil just had this really rich history of religion and culture and influence," Ivery says. "My true passion — as much as I love Afro beat — was Brazilian music."
Now, Afro:Baile focuses exclusively on promoting Brazilian artists in the States and around the world. Ivery says he looks solely for up-and-coming artists because labels in Brazil tend to reissue classic albums or promote new albums by already-established artists, and he wanted to be a catalyst for underground artists to get their voices heard. "I care about the music. I care about the people. I care about the culture," Ivery says. "A lot of people want the Top 40 hit, but that doesn't matter to me."
Thanks to Afro:Baile, the label's Brazilian music has been played on radio stations from Seattle to England. Ivery's put out three compilations of Brazilian music, including the most recent, Brazil: Sambossica 3, and Afro:Baile Records now represents and promotes nearly 40 Brazilian artists. He also puts on several parties throughout the year in the Valley, including Brazilian Day Arizona and Carnaval, and Afro:Baile will host the Brazilian-themed Summer Samba party Friday, June 10, at Mijana.
Brazilians living in Arizona have taken notice of Ivery's efforts, and some of the people who have attended his events now work with him on the label. One, Paula Hall, says she's grateful for Ivery "holding the Brazilian flag up high" in the Valley. "In Arizona, we don't have much of an international culture as other areas of the country," Hall says. "I think his work helps with bands to bring music to the Valley and throughout the world and the U.S."
Another collaborator, Brazilian singer/guitarist Marcos Martins of local Afro:Baile-signed band Som Brazil, says Ivery's goal to bring new artists to non-Brazilian audiences is vital for him and fellow Brazilians. "To Brazilians, he's very important," Martins says. "He's trying to be as original as possible by trying to make sure the musicians we incorporate in our events are as close to the Brazilian culture as possible."
Now if only more Arizonans would strive to discover Brazilian music, as well. Ivery says the majority of his business comes from retail stores in Chicago and Los Angeles, but you can buy Afro:Baile records at the Musical Instrument Museum in North Phoenix, as well as online. Afro:Baile doesn't release singles for downloads because Ivery wants people to get a good feel for what Brazilian artists have to offer on full albums. And chances are, you'll be able to pick up on the passion Ivery looks for when he's choosing artists to feature on his compilations.
"The rhythm has to be there, the soul," Ivery says. "You can hear it in someone's voice. My Portuguese is horrible, so I can understand bits and pieces about what they say, but when you hear the melody, and you feel the rhythm, and you hear the soul of how passionate they are about singing it, you know they love what they do and they're passionate about what they're singing."
Ivery is just as passionate himself about his label and his events. And one he gave DJing a serious effort, he hasn't had to work a boring desk job since.