SOOPA is a proteiform, multicephalous, international art and music platform: a collective of artists and thinkers, a sound & visual laboratory and a concert and performance programmer with a longstanding activity in their headquarter located in Porto, Portugal.
Home to many groups and projects, who exist in a state of great porosity, sharing recurrent visions and methods, SOOPA is a spectral cosmos working in the fields of: negative territories, home-made science fiction, fabricated traditional cultures, mapping of invisible territories, inner station jungle, interception Dub, radio magnetic animism, dead cosmonauts in orbit, phantom agents.
A recurrent set of entities, bands and collaborators operates through this cosmology, among them: Herzbeat Hotel, Mécanosphère, United Scum Soundclash, HHY & The Macumbas, Beast Box, and many others.
SOOPA's activities include since 2001 the production and release of music and publications, the promotion of concerts and conferences, in a continuous and multifaceted process of research.
This network, organised in the style of a semi-visible secret society, has expanded into becoming part of a worldwide community that includes collaborators like Ewen Chardronnet (Fr), Raz Mesinai (USA), Mark Stewart (Mafia), Ripit (France/Belgium), Sikhara (USA), Steve Mackay (USA), Scott Nydegger (China), Fréderic Alstadt (Brx), Arrington de Dionyso (USA), Manuel Neto (Pt), Marcelo Aguirre (Berlin) or Eugene Chadbourne (USA).
SOOPA is oriented around the axis of Jonathan Saldanha and Filipe Silva, with Benjamin Brejon and Dayana Lucas.
The releases are available for purchase on the website, or by contacting email@example.com.
Distributed by Matéria Prima
The experimental collective Soopa lifts Porto out of oblivion.
Soopa is a collective of Porto, Portugal started off a little over ten years ago, as an effort to gather musicians of different backgrounds into a performing collective with a strong focus on improvisation and a quasi cinematic visualization of sound narratives. In time, the project began to take on a much wider scope, evolving into its current multidisciplinary and somewhat holistic status.
Soopa is organised around the central core of Jonathan Uliel Saldanha and Filipe Silva and features the collaboration of a network of musicians, artists and thinkers whose approaches are in some way connected to our own. Affliated musicians are Steve Mackay, known as saxophonist on the recent The Weirdness and Funhouse by The Stooges, Badawi aka Raz Mesinai and Mark Stewart of The Pop Group.
Although Jonathan and Felipe have a different musical background, they immediately understood those differences to be secondary in the face of our shared interests, such as the impact of sound on matter and psyche, the ocurrence of extreme musical forms in both traditional and contemporary contexts, ritualistic practices and their place in our current society, the reconfiguration of time through musical stasis, the dialectics of visible/occult, mental space/outer space. “Our individual approaches and methodologies may differ, but our work lurks a central idea. We both belong to a tradition that spans time and place, and reconfiguration of perception and reality investigating."
Small + isolated = unique
Portugal is an peripheral country, geographically and otherwise, and Porto is isolated within it since most of the media and audiences are in Lisbon. However, Soopa proves that isolation can be a positive creative force. By balancing the collaborative, transnational nature of its activities with the insular character of its hometown, Soopa’s work manages to achieve a specific, non-derivative identity.
With 220 000 inhabitants, Porto is a small city. The local experimental music scene is vibrant and diverse. It benefits from the low-scale dimension of the city because its members originate in multiple other small “scenes” that cannot help but interact:. So improvisation, death/thrash metal, hip-hop, psychedelic rock, electronica, classical indian music come together. As a matter of fact this could be seen as
an overall artistic scene for these musicians collaborate regularly with illustrators, filmmakers, performers, theatre directors, philosophers.
There are no aesthetic separations and the general spirit is one of unrestricted collaboration, “experimental” being considered as an approach and not as a style.
Soopa fits perfectly in this context. The collective has been an active part of Porto’s experimental scene for the last decade, producing and releasing music, organizing and promoting events, and bringing together people from different stylistic areas. On the other hand Soopa’s output as a record label reflects the absence of aesthetic exclusion.
Visionary yet pragmatic
Jonathan and Felipe are deeply involved with the idea that reality can be actively created and not just passively observed. In that sense their main influences are the works of visionary masters such as Saint Hildegard von Bingen, William S. Burroughs, Sun Ra, Jorge Luis Borges, JG Ballard or Rammellzee, who all constructed their own personal cosmologies.
On the level of operation practices and simple encouragement, the duo have drawn inspiration from the activities of central elements of the portuguese experimental scene: musicians like Carlos Zíngaro and Rafael Toral, writers like Rui Eduardo Paes, structures like Co-Lab, a music festival that, for about 5 years in the late 90s and early 00s, created collaborations between stalwarts of the improvised scene and local Porto musicians, and Matéria Prima, a record store/concert promoter that has continously supported their work.
These examples strengthened the already present impulse towards a DIY approach, of creating simple, viable structures for working in the absence of sustained external support.
Soopa operates both as record label and publisher, aiming for the production and presentation of music, intermedia work, visuals and publications. The founders have always been instinctively attracted to music that is not only about music, but instead uses sound to connect to, and manipulate, reality. ”We are both overwhelmed by the physical and psychological impact of sound, so music is a natural activity to us. But the manipulation of reality is also pursued by other means, such as writing, installations and performances.” Felipe and Jonathan are presently completing a book that is a literary/visual essay on the Soopa cosmology.
Most of the projects affiliated with Soopa transcends the purely musical context since they have a ritualistic/theatre/intermedia dimension to their onstage appearance. Specific examples are Mécanosphère’s performances in 2009 in which they shared the stage with visionary cinema magus Kenneth Anger, or Beast Box’s recent Jungle Machine performance, combining sound, spoken word/cut-ups and visuals in an evocation of JG Ballard’s Crystal World.
Recent releases such as The World as a Floating Egg by Jonathan Uliel Saldanha, Hexacosioihexecontahexafobia by Besta Bode and Legba / Houmford by HHY & The Macumbas reveil a wide variety of musical creations: Dadaism fused with black metal, weird electronics and what Soopa describes as " hybrid-induced or voodoo percussion and sci-fi dub ".
In the midst of diversity, there are a few common denominators to Soopa’s releases, such as the exploration of instant composition strategies, the symbolic implications of supercodified formats such as rock and jazz, extreme forms of sonics, reconfigured traditional musics, collage techniques, sound as sensory assault, psychedelic takes on popular music forms. These concepts, rather than the possible musical styles involved, are what motivates Soopa to release certain records. The other parameter is that the records Felipe and Jonathan release either feature their participation as musicians, or they are the work of like-minded people they feel related to.
A decisive influence to Soopa’s vision is the concept of “third rhythm” associated with the South American syncretic religion of Santería. “Ceremonial percussion patterns feature two different rhythms played by each hand, while the “real” rhythm is the one constructed by the ratio between the two that are actually played. In the same way, Soopa is about the relation between all the diverse elements of our work, perception and lives.”
Hans van der Linden RUIS