The Figueria twins – Diego & Dersu – have been carving a name out for themselves as well-versed selectors, percussionists and producers over the past few years. With strong ties to Cape Verde, the duo have converged their Afro-Portugese heritage with exotic, swung rhythms from across the Global South and a classic house sound. They also identify early hip-hop as a fundamental part of their journey – a common thread amongst many contemporary DJs who draw from a broad palette.
With their foundations as a collective centring around the picturesque Swiss city of Basel, the pair crafted their sound playing boogie, disco and funk across their home country and Europe, with selections far-ranging and delectable. They now strive to test busy dance-floors with sounds that consciously diverge away from all established comfort zones – dropping eerie bangers and off-kilter jams from the Far East and beyond.
Like many of the artists amongst their Afro-American influences, they come from a strong tradition of musicianship that started at an early age, with percussion becoming a particular forte that’s now an integral hallmark of the Alma Negra sound.
With releases spread across a tapestry of reputable labels, their sound’s gained praise and support from the likes of Axel Boman, Ben UFO, Antal, Detroit Swindle, Daphni and Gilles Peterson – regularly featuring on UK-based radio station Worldwide FM.
Just after their latest release dropped, we caught up with Diego and Dersu to talk about life on the road and their favourite record shops…
Hey guys, how are you?
So, your latest release – ‘Manta EP’ – has just hit the shelves and is sounding fantastic! Can you talk us through the process and concept behind this one?
What’s the secret to laying down such sweet percussion arrangements? Is there a rough formula that always works for you when thinking about percussion, or is it something else entirely?
In the past, you’ve described hip-hop as your initial gateway into music. Which hip-hop tracks and artists stood out for you the most during this period?
When you’re in the midst of a relentless touring schedule, or a heavy weekend on the road, how do you cope? What’s your technique for winding down and relaxing?
It often feels as if mental health issues in the music industry are commonly brought to light by solo artists that tour quite heavily. How important is it to you and your stability that you’re sharing the experience of touring, performing and building the Alma Negra name alongside each other?
When digging for records on the road and in unfamiliar places – when time is often of the essence – what’s your approach to finding new gems?
Are there any particular record shops around the globe that stand out for you guys? Any that have been particularly important to the Alma Negra experience so far?
Aside from digging for records, do you ever make time to search for new instruments and sounds to use in your work when you’re touring, given that your tastes adopt such a global perspective? Have you ever sought out unfamiliar studios and performance spaces to capture new material when you’re travelling?
If you could collaborate with one artist or producer – past or present – who would it be, and why?
Finally, what’s your focus for the year ahead? Any exciting new things we should keep an eye out for?
Thanks guys! All the best for 2020!