Photo: Linda Melendez

International Tuki Love: An Interview with Pocz and Pacheko (Part One)

By | 04 December, 2012

You may know Pocz and Pacheko as the newest faces of the changa tuki movement in Venezuela. You may also know them as part of the team that put changa tuki on the world map by researching and making the now renowned documentary ¿Quién Quiere Tuki? (Who Wants Tuki?) What you may not know about them are the following things: (1) they’re incredibly enthusiastic about the growing power of changa tuki in Venezuela and beyond; (2) they still have day jobs, and (3) they don’t take themselves very seriously. You can also tell that their partnership extends beyond business when, mid interview, the following exchange takes place:

Pocz: “We’re best friends. I consider him my best friend, but I’m just like a standard friend for him.”
Pacheko: “We’re the same person.”
Pocz: “Now he has his European friends who are better than me.”
Pacheko: “You’re an idiot!” [Laughs] Pocz: “It doesn’t matter what country he is in, I love him the same.”

And it’s a good thing for us that they do. Getting their start in the Caracas music scene, Pocz and Pacheko, along with a group of Venezuelan musicians, documentarians and graphic designers, have taken it upon themselves to not only internationalise changa tuki, but to record the history of a genre and movement often maligned by the Venezuelan media and middle class. In a few years, the deejays have managed to form partnerships with the originators of the scene and also catch the attention of global bass all-stars like Buraka Som Sistema and their Enchufada label in Portugal. Last month, Enchufada released the duo’s first EP, Changa Letal, which features the deejays’ original changa tuki sound, and collaborations with tuki heavy hitter DJ Yirvin, and global bass enthusiasts Cardopusher and Buraka Som Sistema. Listen to one of the tracks from the compilation below:

To say the least, they’ve been busy. So, on an extremely sunny Friday morning (at least in Puerto Rico), I sat down for an interview with the dynamic duo. Pocz phoned in from Caracas, while Pacheko phoned in from his new home in Barcelona to talk about a little bit of everything, including their reasons for making the documentary, the prejudice that those in the tuki scene face, the challenges of making music transnationally and the crazy production of their newest record.

As middle class kids in Caracas, Pocz and Pacheko grew up listening to everything, from salsa, cumbia and merengue to electronic music and underground reggaeton (not to be confused with actual reggaeton). Nonetheless, the producers weren’t always into the super tropical music of the region and only had a vague knowledge of what tuki sounded like. In fact, they used to produce dubstep tracks and, in the words of Pacheko, they also wanted to sound like London.

“[…] We listened to a lot of British music. We were making music at 140bpm, with bass and reggae influence,” Pacheko recounted. “One day, I don’t know, Pocz and I started talking about The Noise [influential Puerto Rican underground reggae act] and we started incorporating the dembow sound to dubstep and we realised we sounded like changa tuki; but we didn’t know anything about changa tuki. Then one thing led to another. We also started to get close to it because we liked it, we wanted our music to have an identity. You listen to older Pocz and Pacheko stuff and we wanted to sound like Mala from Digital Myztikz or Skream and Benga. But you listen to us two years later, and it’s a whole other thing. It’s more Venezuelan, more tuki.”

This sudden connection is part of the reason why the producers started to research changa tuki and also, started getting closer to the scene’s originators. Since tuki is mostly popularised through the mixtape culture, they explained that it was very hard for them to find information about anything related to the genre on the internet. That is, until they stumbled upon the dance battle videos. “We saw the dance battle videos and I said: where is this music from? I imagined it was like from Germany or some weird place. But the beat is super tropical. I never imagined there would be a lot of quality producers here,” explained Pocz.

That’s when the duo sought out tuki pioneers DJ Yirvin and DJ Baba. As Pacheko tells the story, they met Yirvin in Petare in 2008. By that time Yirvin had abandoned tuki for hard fusion and, much like Raptor House originator DJ Baba, had moved on to more commercially viable ventures like electro house and reggaeton. By the time Pocz and Pacheko arrived at the scene, the days of changa tuki were becoming history.

“When we contacted them, we realised they were abandoning the scene,” Pacheko said. “Then you would see a school kid walking down the street – ten, maybe fifteen years old – he sees somebody from the barrio and he would say disparagingly: “he’s a tuki”. But the kid doesn’t even know what tuki is; he doesn’t know the music. For us it was incredible that it [the term] had become so scornful, and that nobody had bothered to cover the subject in a just manner. There was disinterest because in Venezuela it’s easier to follow the fashion or style from abroad than to pay attention to what is happening in the barrio.”

Aside from the originality they found in the music, Pocz maintained that they also realised that there was deeper stuff going on with the genre. “When we met Yirvin we started to meet the dancers and producers. We started to do some research and we found out that there was a story to tell. That’s how the documentary started. It started as something short, like five minutes. Then that turned into ten minutes and then into eighteen minutes, and we had to cut a lot of stuff out.”

Out of all the information that got left on the cutting room floor, some argue that the documentary could’ve delved deeper into the history of the miniteca, the poverty in the barrios and the social consequences of the prejudice against anything tuki-related. To this, Pacheko argued that, aside from the fact that the documentary was made on a nonexistent budget, they also wanted to focus more on letting the genre be known outside of Venezuela. Nonetheless, Pocz also acknowledged that politics played a big role in their decision about the content.

“[…] On the social part there is too much material and it’s a subject that is very profound and very delicate, specifically in Venezuela because it relates a lot to politics, violence and with things that we live through here that are pretty terrible. We wanted to show the good things that can come out of that. That’s why the documentary doesn’t go deep into the social part, or is too technical musically. We wanted to do something simple, easy to digest and that focused on the music and the dance moves.”

To further put into context the social stigma against the culture and the importance of acknowledging the real cultural contribution of tuki artists and dancers, Pacheko talked a little about the situation in Venezuela. “[…] Along with El Salvador, Venezuela is one of the most violent countries in the Americas. It’s one of the top five in the world. The last known death toll was in 2010, and there were more than nineteen thousand violent deaths, most of them by firearms. Sadly, we have a government that doesn’t take care of that and the people that really suffer are the ones in the barrios. The majority of the people that die are from the barrio and they’re people who are really young. When you talk to the dancers, Elber for example, he tells us about how he sees chamitos [young boys] hanging out with malandros [thugs] and he tries to invite them to dance; have them dedicate themselves to dancing instead of stealing.”

Because of the mostly negative stories about the barrio and its people, Pacheko explained that they were portrayed as the lowest of the low in the media and in society, that’s why it was important to them to show the other side of the coin. So, with the popularisation of the documentary and the vast array of information that is available now, that prejudice must’ve changed a bit, right? Not so fast.

“I mean, some people are going to love it and some people are going to hate it. If it changes or not doesn’t really matter to us, that’s not what we’re looking for. […] We liked it and there are a lot of people that like it to,” Pocz commented. Pacheko added that “There’s a lot of racism, classism, bad education. Growing up in Venezuela, it is normal for people to tell you ‘don’t hang out with people from the barrio, it’s a delicate situation.’ It’s a lot of stupid thinking that you need to transform. Our contribution lies in our music and our example. Whatever happens after that doesn’t depend on us. It’s a big country with 27 million people and the documentary has been seen by a 100 thousand people; a small group. The good thing is that maybe now there’s somebody making fun of tuki, and there will be somebody saying; ‘did you see the documentary? It’s a musical style.”

For the second part of this interview with Pocz and Pacheko just click here.

Pocz and Pacheko released Changa Letal on Enchufada Records on November 26th. You can catch them live December 8 at the Vodafone Mexefest in Lisbon, Portugal or listen to their mixes every Thursday at midnight on Caracas’s La Mega or www.abstractor.net.

Listen to the Changa Letal EP below:


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