Zuco 103

Blending Brazilian music, electronics, funk, and jazz into a breezily danceable style known as Brazilectro, Zuco 103 are global dance music pioneers. With members hailing from Brazil, Germany, and the Netherlands, the trio had a head start on incorporating sounds and styles from around the world, and 2000's debut album, Outro Lado, captured Zuco 103's confident, organic mix of influences. The group further expanded its inviting sound with releases including 2002's mellow yet invigorating Tales of High Fever and 2006's reggae-inflected Whaa!, while the remix collections that accompanied their albums, their frequent worldwide tours, and their performances with artists ranging from Lee "Scratch" Perry to Joe Jackson to Marcos Suzano reflected Brazilectro's international reach. Decades after they formed, 2016's electronics-based Etno Chic and 2023's stripped-down yet festive Telenova proved Zuco 103 could still find fresh angles on their feel-good sound.

Zuco 103's roots date back to 1989, when the band's members met at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Initially performing under the name Rec.a, Brazilian-born singer Lilian Vieira, German keyboardist Stefan Schmid, and Dutch drummer Stefan Kruger fused the samba and bossa nova of Vieria's homeland with funk, jazz, dub, and drum'n'bass. After changing their name to Zuco 103, the band introduced their distinctive sound — dubbed Brazilectro by Schmid — with 2000's debut album Outro Lado. The Other Side EP, which featured mixes of the album's tracks by Charles Webster and Maurice Fulton, also appeared that year, and 2001's remix album The Other Side of Outro Lado gathered reworkings by World of Apples and Funky Lowlives, among others. For their next album, 2002's Tales of High Fever, Zuco 103's musical horizons grew to include touches of blues, flamenco, and reggae in their danceable approach. The following year, the trio further expanded its body of work with the acoustic collection Down "Unplugged" and the live and remixes set Up "Remixes" that were ultimately collected as the double album One Down, One Up.

For their next effort, 2006's Whaa!, Zuco 103 collaborated with Lee "Scratch" Perry on several tracks. Incorporating elements of rock, African, and house music, the album peaked at number 11 on the World Music charts in the U.S. Two years later, the group returned with After the Carnaval, a mellower set of songs that emphasized the Brazilian roots of Brazilectro. Retouched! After the Carnaval Remixes followed in 2009, with Kraak & Smaak, Bossacucanova, and Primal View among the artists reimagining the album's songs. Zuco 103 then took a hiatus as its members worked on other projects, including Vieria's 2014 self-titled solo album. The trio resurfaced with the Apocalypso EP in 2015, the same year that the greatest hits collection Best of Zuco 103 appeared. On their next full-length, 2016's Etno Chic, Zuco 103 revisited the dance-based sound of their early days. In 2019, the trio celebrated its 20th anniversary with Tripicalismo, which collected hits and remixes along with newly recorded material. During the COVID-19 global pandemic, Zuco 103's time away from their usually busy touring schedule gave them more time to hone the material for their next album. Boasting a stripped-down yet funky sound and more personal songwriting, 2023's Telenova offered a refreshed version of the trio's grooving style.

by Heather Phares
All Music Guide




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