Dystopian Realities, Futuristic Tones: The Music of Salviatek in Uruguay

By Stephanie Jiménez
Futuristic and dystopian arts are often mistaken as one and the same. Futuristic art emphasizes the advancement of technology and society and projects humanity with a future largely different from how we live today. My experiences with dystopian imaginations have always included forms of suffering and injustice. For futuristic music without lyrics, oftentimes these ideas of technology and progress are sonified as electronic music, invented instruments, and/or uncommon rhythms or timbres (sound qualities). Dystopian music can take on these very same qualities. What happens when the music is futuristic in quality but dystopian in the truth and the past? In Montevideo, Uruguay, a music collective called Salviatek co-founded by producers Lechuga Zafiro and Pobvio produces music that is just this; futuristic in quality, but dystopian at heart. Futuristic and dystopian arts are often mistaken as one and the same. Futuristic art emphasizes the advancement of technology and society and projects humanity with a future largely different from how we live today. My experiences with dystopian imaginations have always included forms of suffering and injustice. For futuristic music without lyrics, oftentimes these ideas of technology and progress are sonified as electronic music, invented instruments, and/or uncommon rhythms or timbres (sound qualities). Dystopian music can take on these very same qualities. What happens when the music is futuristic in quality but dystopian in the truth and the past? In Montevideo, Uruguay, a music collective called Salviatek co-founded by producers Lechuga Zafiro and Pobvio produces music that is just this; futuristic in quality, but dystopian at heart. 
 
Salviatek can be found in the underground club scene in Uruguay. The producers describe their music as boundary-breaking experimental dance music looking to challenge prejudices in music and society as a means of resisting the dystopian workings of the modern world. Their music-making is meant to draw from experience and forces listeners and dancers alike to question what they are hearing. One of the main goals of their music is to mix genres from ‘third world’ and ‘first world’ club scenes. Their sounds investigate cumbia, reggaeton, baile funk, techno among others in ways unknown to the popular music scene while honoring rhythms and instruments local to Uruguay. While doing so, the collective never forget to honor the traditional/folkloric music much of their non-western mixes are based on (Joyce, 2018). 
 
Electronic and club music scenes as of right now are at the forefront of innovative music-making. Bringing Indigenous music into the club was questioned decades ago, but today club music welcomes genre-bending music (Hassan, 2015). Pobvio uses pre-Columbian music throughout his DJing where you can hear the siku (a type of panpipe) and musical keys similar to the Chaco province in northern Argentina (Donohue, 2018). The foundation of their music is based on a traditional rhythm unique to Uruguay that was brought by enslaved Africans. Candombe, as this rhythm is called, is practiced by a group of drummers and dancers called a candombe comparsas (Iadorola, 2015). These groups exist today despite much discrimination and racism. This idea of resistance and survival as told through the rhythm and mixing of their music is what drives Salviatek’s message. Resilience, survival, and oppression are often themes in dystopian worlds, which is how Salviatek presents their experiences. 
 
Do not be mistaken, because Salviatek’s music is dystopian, does not mean that it is romanticizing dystopian qualities. Uruguay experiences division in gender and race/ethnicities. This music is meant to raise awareness of these subjects which are taboo in Uruguay. Utilizing the dystopian futuristic feel for their music is not an attempt at fetishizing an imagination but is a way to vocalize the issues of people who are largely ignored. The dystopian quality of their music acts as both a representation of their realities. 
In a sense, Salviatek is born from a dystopian era where music-making cannot make you a living in Uruguay. Their music-making experience is also rooted in discrimination and non-acceptance into the mainstream culture of Uruguay as electronic music today, but also by its composted elements (candombe, etc.). The music of Salviatek is the perfect example of how music exists as a cyclical representation, where the music of the past meets the music of the present and tells stories of the past while existing as people in the present who are projecting music into the future.
 
Listen to Salviatek on SoundCloud, Spotify, Bandcamp, or youtube. 
 
Stephanie Jiménez is Mexican American and was raised in Pittsburgh. They are currently pursuing a BS in environmental science and a BA in music via the global and popular music track. They are also working towards certificates in geographical information systems, Latin American studies, and sustainability. Stephanie draws on their cultural background and disciplines to forge studies on the intersections between the environment and music. Through their teaching experience at the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center (Florida Recycled), Pitt’s Center for Creativity, and the Allegheny Land Trust, Stephanie has begun exploring how science and music are tools for advocacy work. In May 2020, Stephanie was awarded a grant from the Anita J. Curka Scholarship for Music to research topics of environmentalism in indigenous and Latin American music in their senior thesis through the lenses of ethnoecology and ecomusicology. After graduation, Stephanie hopes to pursue a higher degree in agroforestry and/or ethnomusicology.

References
Cheky. (2018, October 8). 8 Musicians Paying Tribute to Their Indigenous Roots. Remezcla. https://remezcla.com/lists/music/indigenous-musicians-latin-america/
Craciun, M. (2017, April 7). Uruguayan Producers Pobvio and Lechuga Zafiro on the Ritualistic 
Goals of Salviatek: Exploring the Montevideo-based label and party that references the past while facing the future. Redbull Music Academy. https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2017/04/salviatek-interview
Donohue, C. (2018, January 31). Salviatek’s Latest Track Pays Homage to the Indigenous 
Hassan, M. (2015, September 22). Pobvio Brings Traditional Candombe Rhythms to the Club on 
Iadorola, A. (2015, October 28). NAAFI Producer Lechuga Zafiro’s New Single Employs 
Afro-Uruguayan Rhythms of Resistance. Vice. 
Joyce, C. (2018, July 16). Raze the Dancefloor with Pobvio’s Chaotic Mix of Underground Club 
Lechuga Zafio. (2018). Aequs Nyama Remixed. Salviatek. 2018. 
Rasenk, P. (2020, October 9). Latido. Salviatek. 2020. https://salviatek.bandcamp.com/album/latido-2

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