Miguel Ivery is at the forefront of bringing Brazilian music to the masses, as founder of Brazilian music-focused Afro:Baile Records and the annual Brazilian Day Arizona Festival, whose sixth event will happen at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts September 19. He also spins records as DJ Seduce, specializing in world music that gets crowds dancing.
Ivery, a 37-year-old Gilbert resident, talked about what inspired him to start his own label and what he strives for as a DJ. Keep reading to see him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.
What brought you to Arizona?
Actually, I’m a native, one of barely any left or living here in the Valley. I attended high school at Saguaro High School and continued to community college before leaving to pursue music.
What’s your earliest memory of being interested in music?
You know, music was always relevant in my house since I could remember. My parents and older brother always listened to a wide range of music, and my dad had a cool record collection and a turntable. I think I figured out I wanted to be rock star, because I used to listen to Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, Iron Maiden, and Van Halen with my older brother.
My friend and neighbor Justin and I would make concerts in our backyards with all the neighbors when we were like 7 years old. We used baseball bats as guitars and broom sticks as microphones. It was awesome.
Growing up, I never listened to hip-hop or rap music. All I remember is soul and Motown music being played around my dad, country music and jazz with my mom, or just rock n’ roll with my older brother. My parents always pushed us and encouraged us, in a good and supportive way, to play music and instruments from a young age. I started playing jazz saxophone in the first grade through eighth grade, and along the way picked up the drums and later the bass guitar as well, before eventually settling with turntables. So, music has always been an interest as long as I can remember.
How did you become a DJ?
I became a DJ by accident. Way back in the late ’90s, one of my younger brothers asked for a DJ set for Christmas. My mom bought him this “DJ in a Box Set” from Guitar Center. The box set came with turntables, a mixer, a light ball and magazines. I thought it was pretty cool, and occasionally just messed around playing records I had got from my dad years earlier.
I used to frequent this sandwich shop around the same time where these DJs worked at, as well. I used to go in and talk to them daily, and they’d invite me out to their night in Tempe. After checking out their night, and seeing what they were doing, it was sort of inspiring to want to play music out for a living.
So, one day I picked up this DJ magazine we had laying around, and I read this article on Om Records, a downtempo/house/jazztronica label. I didn’t know anything about the Internet at the time really, except we had AOL. The article was about how to enter to win Om Records’ entire music catalog. So, I visited the website and entered. Weeks went by, and I thought I’d check my email, and when I did, I got an email saying “You won, send us your address” — that’s it.
Weeks later I get a ring at the doorbell, and UPS had three huge boxes for me to sign for. I opened them, and it was Om Records’ complete catalog — tons of vinyl, CDs, remixes, B-sides, T-shirts, all types of stuff. It was bananas.
From there, I started listening to everything they sent, and found this downtempo, house, jazz, soul sound that I fell in love with. I started practicing on my brother’s turntables and eventually taught myself how to mix. Maybe after three months of practice, I found this ad in the newspaper looking for weekend DJ. I called, I auditioned, told a lie or two to make myself sound like I knew what I was doing, and they hired me. I played there for a few months before I found another ad in the newspaper for a club gig. Again, I went down, auditioned, and got the job. Fifteen years later, over 1,000 gigs, festivals, events, concerts, countries, tours, cities and states, and it’s been a wild ride. Here I am today, an accident that made a career out of it.
Why are you passionate about Brazilian and world music?
I think overall I am passionate about world music as a whole. I find that music from around the world offers a sincere sort of struggle, history, accomplishment, denial and happiness that is both riveting and relatable in a story-like way. When you listen to music from Africa or Brazil, or jazz from Italy and such, it’s a beautiful struggle to tell a story of times past, but ultimately ends with a brighter day for the future. I like music like that. It drives me to find music that tells a story, both lyrically and instrumentally.
What makes you stand out as a DJ?
First and foremost, I only play vinyl. I started that way, I learned that way, and I have continued to play that way my entire 15-year career, which I guess is rare, especially in this day and age with all these MP3J’s out there.
Also, I play world music, mostly Brazilian, but I play an eclectic mix of global beats from Brazil to Mexico to Africa to Italy to Japan to the Middle East. I’d say that’s probably been my biggest standout in my career, because that’s all I play. I don’t play or conform to get a gig. I play what I know, how I know it, and what I want, and that’s led me to keep a healthy tenure with more than 1,000 gigs in my career.
World music, global music, music of the world, if you will, has always been my calling card, and its always opened doors for me to keep pushing forward, so I can continue to play clubs, festivals, events, concerts, tours and more. I’ve never got a gig, residency or opportunity because someone thought I played something other than what I play. I play me for me, and the world for you, one record at a time.
What’s your typical week like?
My weeks tend to have a mind of their own. On a regular basis, there is always practicing for DJ gigs — that’s always first. From there, the Afro:Baile Records business has a lot of different avenues that need attending to. We recently released a new album, Brazil:Sambossica Vol. 5, so there is all the marketing, promotion, radio play and gigs to support the album that need to be lined up. The music business is always changing, so you have to stay ahead of the curve and go for it.
At the same time, on our festival side of the business, we are planning our 6th Annual Brazilian Day Festival that happens September 19 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. That’s a very involved process that can feel larger than life at times. The festival takes the most time, as it’s very involved and takes months to put together. A typical work week for that alone includes hundreds of emails, phone calls, meetings and planning strategies to make the festival come together. Its 20-hour days seven days a week for months at a time.
Trying find a balance in your week is the hardest part. Too much business, not enough music, too much music, not enough business, and so on. In between all of that, we have relationships with label artists, new albums in the process, and our annual festivals, where we’re in the process of adding more to our annual repertoire.
What are your goals as a DJ?
To finish playing in all the places around the world I haven’t played yet, such as Motreal, Vancouver, Brazil, Mexico City, London, Japan, Germany, and Italy. I’d also like to play a number of festivals, and share the stage with a number of bands and DJs on my checklist. I’ve had a number of opportunities thus far to play out of state, in different cities and in different countries. I have a checklist of places, events, festivals and bands I’d like to share the stage with still before I call it a day. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have shared the stage with so many incredible bands, singers, dancers, MCs and other DJs, so if it all ended today, I’d have no complaints, but be on the lookout, as I am planning on checking a few more of those off my list here before the end of the year.
Also, my goal is to keep my ongoing Brazil:Sambossica album series rolling through my label. I started it in 2008, and have to date released five albums. I’d like to eventually celebrate volume 10 and, who knows, volume 20 some day.
Aside of that, I just ask the vinyl gods to keep pressing so I can keep playing. Vinyl isn’t just music — it’s a way of life and is an instrument of quality everlasting love that keeps me motivated in pursing the ultimate goal: to play what you love, love what you do, and see the world why you do it.
Where can people hear you?
As a DJ, all the current gigs I have over the summer are all private gigs, events and out-of-state festivals, so there isn’t really anything going on for me locally where people can see me play at right now.
As we approach the fall, however, we have the 6th Annual Brazilian Day Arizona Festival. The annual Brazilian Day is Arizona’s largest — and only — award-winning Brazilian Independence Day festival in the Valley. Brazilian Day is a daytime, family-friendly Brazilian experience of all things Brazilian. The festival features a live music concert, dance performances, workshops, food, drinks and vendors. Brazilian Day offers something for everyone from of all walks of life and all age groups. You can find more info at www.BrazilianDayArizona.com.
What’s it like running your own record label, and how did Afro:Baile Records get started?
Running a record label is a job just like anyone else. You have to get up, show up, work hard, and put in 100 percent effort to make it happen every day. Because we are local, and the majority of our artists are in Brazil, there is a number of things we have to adjust to, work around, and make happen for each day to function right. You have the difference, language barriers at times, legal licensing from country to country, and, of course, the marketing and promotion that goes into to creating a platform that gives the most exposure and promotion to albums across all countries around the world. Sometimes the music part and creating an album is easy, but the business, licensing, legal and promotional and execution is the hard part.
I started Afro:Baile Records as a spin off to my Afro:Baile monthly event I started back in 2006. Afro:Baile was this ongoing monthly event that featured live music, dance and performances from South America with a focus on African cultures, such as Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Peruvian, etc. The monthly gained a ton of exposure through social media at the time. I started receiving messages from bands and labels from across South America and Europe. People wanted to play at Afro:Baile, and it was crazy.
Brazilian artists were the most persistent, however, and I used to get a dozen new albums a month from artists all over Brazil. After acquiring all these albums, I would pick songs to play at Afro:Baile the event. Before I knew it, I was thinking, why not release this as a compilation under a label. So, when it came to the name, I figured, the event was the platform already, let’s just add records to the event name Afro:Baile, and use both as platforms for new music. So I did, and while the event eventually ended, the label pushed on, now at eight years and counting.
Where can people find your label’s music?
You can always find our music on our website at www.Afrobaile.com. We have every one of our albums available, so fans can stream the entire album before purchasing it if they like.
We also have worldwide distribution through Altafonte, so you can find our entire catalog digitally across over 200 platforms, such as itunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, etc. You can also visit our company booth at any of our festivals and events in the Valley, where we’re always selling music and merchandise.
What are your goals with the label?
To create the largest sustainable platform possible for Brazilian and world music and culture, not just in the Valley of the Sun, but on an international scale. Although my company predominantly focuses only on Brazilian culture and music, we are constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to bring in more cultural ideas, mediums, music styles, performances and cultural avenues that will allow us to expand into a much larger market and cultural demographic.
What are the benefits and challenges to owning your own business?
Being self-employed is awesome. Having your own business allows you to grow at your own speed, and develop it the way you want to. You are the boss, you make the rules, you hire the staff, and you make the decisions, so it’s great in that regard.
But, businesses are just brands of who we are inside and what we want to contribute to the world. So in a way, you are the business, and the business is you. The challenges with that, however, are you need to be 100 percent all the time. The business doesn’t stop because you’re tired or want to do other things. People, businesses, brands and even communities are waiting on you, so you have to be prepared to give your all, fulfill orders and services, and contribute to your mission as a company. Remember, your paycheck, reputation and name are on the line, so create something that challenges you, inspires you, and excites you to keep going.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own record label?
Don’t do it — ha, I’m kidding. If you want to start your own record label, I’d say educate yourself on the current trends in the music industry. The music and entertainment industry is not anything like it used to be. It’s a new breed of digital ecstasy that can make or break your spiritual belief in what music is or should be in today’s society.
Owning a business is hard enough, so mixing music and business together can be a bit overwhelming, but fun at the same time. The music industry even on an independent level has new avenues all across the board, from touring, merchandise, music and artists that have gone and created brands of themselves instead of being just a music artist. People want to feel like they are a part of something real, and having a label, you have to have people around you who are real, keeping you motivated and going around the clock. It’s give and take, but it’s a joyride you won’t ever forget.
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