Tag Archives: Portugal Music

Producing artists through hit songs with Rafael “Lhast” Alves

When an artist releases a song to the public, people are often quick to judge whether or not they enjoy it. They take the song at face value, listen to it one or two times, and decide whether or not it is something they’d like to purchase or to play again. Regardless of whether or not they feel as though the song is a hit or not, they attribute its quality to the artist or band that released it. What they typically fail to consider are the teams behind these artists and how much hard work and dedication goes into bringing a track or an album to the public. It takes ensembles of skilled composers, songwriters, editors, and more to carefully piece together each and every aspect of the project. Potentially the most important of these roles lies in the caliber of the producer on the track, a job that Portuguese producer Rafael “Lhast” Alves knows better than most.

The role of a producer is intricate, and requires a well-developed, refined skill set to achieve success. Producers are responsible for a number of crucial roles such as brainstorming and gathering ideas for a project, finding ways to change or improve song arrangements, coaching artists during and outside of studio time, acquiring session musicians, leading and directing recording sessions, and much more. Essentially, producers are in charge of supervising the entire process of recording a song and ensuring that the artist or band that they are working with are more than content with the final product. Lhast, who has always been passionate about building a career out of his love for music, has spent his entire life learning how to master these skills and adapt them to every artist he works with. Throughout his time working as a producer, he has lent his talents to artists like Richie Campbell on his song “Do You No Wrong,” which received over 12 million views on YouTube, a Platinum Record Award for over 15,000 sales, as well as a nomination for a Portuguese Golden Globe. His reputable production style has also helped artists like Joao “Valas” Valido rise to fame. After Lhast both composed and produced Valas’ hit song, “As Coisas,” Valas was nominated for Up-And-Coming Artist at the New Era Awards and was the song that lead him to be signed by Portugal Universal. He is well versed in his art form and he is known for his ability to shed greatness upon the projects of the artists he works with.

In 2016, following the world-wide success of “Do You No Wrong,” Lhast was approached by Diogo Picarra to produce his song “Historia.” Knowing that Picarra was already a major artist in Portugal, Lhast knew that this would be a solid addition to his career. Picarra briefed Lhast on his vision for the song and Lhast was instantly confident that he was the best producer for the job. When artists approach him about a project, Lhast is always careful to ensure that he fully grasps the intentions of the artist but that he uses his own affinity for hit-making to refine the artist’s vision and target their intended audience strategically. He has a keen understanding of the industry and he takes great care to professionally propose any changes to the song arrangements that he sees fit. At the time that Picarra recruited Lhast, he already had the composition prepared. He was simply looking for a producer to take his groundwork on the single to the next level. Fortunately for Picarra, Lhast added his flare to the song’s elements and was likely the reason that Picarra went on to receive widespread recognition amongst fans and fellow artists alike.

“It was a very smooth process. Since Picarra already had the demo and composition for the song, I had the exciting task of adjusting these pieces to produce a five star, quality track. I suggested that we move the arrangement to draw attention in different areas and ironed out a lot of minor, yet important details. I also felt it necessary to record some other instruments on the track. In all, I wanted to make sure that the whole experience was sonically fresh and had great quality,” Lhast said.

High quality is exactly what the track had. 7 million YouTube views and a Gold Record for over 5,000 sales later, Picarra is still buzzing about what he and Lhast accomplished together. This, however, is not an unusual reaction for the artists that Lhast works with. His reputation has grown because of the way in which he conducts his work and his ability to guide his artists along the right path. Take Valas for instance. After years of working with Lhast on several different projects, he still finds himself impressed by his skills as a producer. He credits Lhast with his growth as an artist, and knows that he was instrumental to the success of his career so far.

“Rafael is a producer with great attention to detail and knowledge of the various listeners we try to target. Beyond that, I think he really stands out for his understanding of the public’s emotional response to a piece of work and how they will connect with it. He juggles the technical aspects of a song, as well as the emotional ones and the results are profound. I think he knows how to bring out the best in me and he is so incredibly in tune with what I’m trying to express through my music,” told Valas.

While artists find joy working with Lhast, his pleasure extends beyond that. He loves the open challenge that each new project presents and that there aren’t many rules regulating his creative mind. Despite the competition that surrounds him, he firmly believes that through hard work and persistence, great projects will find him. He sets his efforts toward perfecting his skill at any chance he gets and building discipline in the process. He is motivated every day and he truly loves what he does. He hopes that one day, he will be one of the greatest producers in the world. Maybe he will, or maybe his talents will steer him toward other great titles; however, one thing is for sure, he will stop at nothing to find out.

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Young Ambition Leads to International Success for Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira

Duarte 'Duda' Figueira
Music Producer/A&R Specialist Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira

Whether it’s being in the right place at the right time, unceasing ambition and unwillingness to slow down after hearing a dreaded ‘no,’ or a combination of the two, some people discover their dreams and go to work paving the way for them to come true much earlier than most of the population.

Like the inspirational and semi-autobiographical story Cameron Crowe brought to life in the Oscar Award winning film Almost Famous, which follows a talented teenage journalist who joins the band Stillwater on tour in the 70s and covers the journey for Rolling Stone, music industry aficionado Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira experienced a similar rise to success back home in Portugal at the ripe age of 16.

Today Duda, as he is known affectionately throughout the industry, is known for his impressive achievements as a music producer/A& R specialist and major force behind some of Portugal’s best known artists such as reggae/dance hall singer Richie Campbell, the rapper Regula and producer Lhast, to name a few.

Duda, who is now 26, took a leap of faith in his early teens and reached out to Lisbon’s leading reggae promoter at the time, Fernando Cabral, with an e-mail pitch that would come to change his life forever. Duda knew the market for reggae music in Portugal was huge, but he felt that the information about reggae events was not reaching the country’s fans as effectively as it should– so he offered himself up as a flyer boy. He was immediately given a one-time job postering the cities with flyers about an upcoming concert featuring the bands No Joke Sound, Stepacide, and the one and only Gregory Isaacs who sadly passed away in 2010.

“My mom drove me there. I got a chance to meet [Cabral] and the rest of the partners, and I was given a bunch of flyers and posters, and a guarantee of having a free ticket for the show. And that was great!,” recalls Duda.

The following week what began as a one-time job turned into much more when, fuelled by a rare level of confidence for someone his age, Duda decided to pop over to Cabral’s office to thank him for the ticket, have a chat about music, and ultimately offer his services on the public relations side of the business. There he was introduced to the members of the band No Joke Sound, who were on site recording a live set.

“As an aspiring Selector and MC, bumping into them was kind of a ‘star-struck’ moment,” admits Duda. “The moment I walked in Fernando said to them ‘this is the kid that sent the email!.’ They were surprised.”

The band members’ understandable surprise at seeing a kid so young walk nonchalantly into the country’s leading music promotion agency with big ideas of how they could better reach their target audience quickly faded once Duda began to speak about the music industry and what fans were looking for, but not necessarily getting. Duda exchanged contacts with No Joke Sound member Bernardo “Ben” Miranda, who subsequently invited him to come along the following week to the No Mercy Soundclash, Portugal’s first ever reggae soundclash event.

“I met Ben’s cousin, Gonçalo Leitão, also known as ‘Krpan.’ After the event, we went to Ben’s house, and inside of his kitchen, Ben looked at both of us and said: ‘You and you! You are going to have a sound system together.’ And the rest is history… From that week until today, Ben has been my ultimate mentor. He was the one who pushed me to have a career in music,” Duda recalls fondly.

Fyah Box Sound
Krpan (left), Duda and Lhast (right) of Fyah Box Sound

At only 17 Duda, along with Ben’s cousin Krpan, created Fyah Box Sound, a reggae/dancehall sound system, which is a style of music collective that originated in Jamaica and includes a DJ,  MC and engineer. Duda geniously developed the “Triple Threat” concept for Fyah Box, a series of weekly videos that include everything from artists freestyling to debut song releases. Upon inception the concept helped make Fyah Box a huge success in Portugal, and it has since become a leading source of music for reggae and dancehall fans across the world.

Building Fyah Box Sound up from the ground floor, Duda created a recognizable name for the collective by bringing in world-renowned artists such as Anthony B, Ikaya, Richie Campbell, Regula, Short Size, Blasph, Dillaz, Xeg, JLZ, Kristoman, DJ Nelassassin and several others to collaborate. What started as a reggae/dance hall collective quickly turned into a cross-cultural music platform thanks to Duda’s decision to open the collective to other styles of music such as  R&B, rap, and hip hop.

Now, a decade later, Duda has definitely carved out a prominent position in Portugal’s music scene as a highly sought after music producer/A& R specialist. Considering the extent of what he does for the artists and projects he oversees, which includes everything from working as a booking agent, manager, fashion advisor and lead A&R man, Duda’s music producer/A& R specialist title is the only one that fits, as he coordinates literally everything that goes into both the planning of a production and the artist’s overall career.

A year after starting Fyah Box Sound, Duda began working as the A& R specialist for Portuguese artist Richie Campbell, who started the band Stepacide and was also a member of No Joke Sound prior to going solo. With Duda coordinating everything from planning releases, coordinating events, deciding on singles and album art, and crafting his image and musical approach, Campbell has been met with incredible international success as a solo artist.

Richie Campbell’s manager Bernardo “Ben” Miranda explains, “Duarte is someone we know we can always count on for both the creative and strategic process as well as the execution. Over the past 9 years that we’ve worked together it was a joy to see him grow into the person and the professional he is today. His ambition, creativity, commitment, loyalty and organization make him one of the most desirable professionals in the Portuguese music industry.”

Duarte 'Duda' Figueira
Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira (left) and Richie Campbell (right) in Berlin

As Campbell’s music producer and A&R specialist, Duda has played a major role in the production and release of each of the artist’s albums since 2010, including “My Path,” “Focused,” and “In the 876,” as well as Campbell’s 2010 EP “Richie Campbell” and the album and accompanying DVD “Live at Campo Pequeno.” Fans across Portugal went wild upon the release of Campbell’s 2015 album “In the 876,” which quickly topped charts and became No. 1 on the digital store sales chart within a few hours of its release– something that hadn’t been seen in the country since the release of Beyonce’s 2013 self-titled album.

Over the years Duda has also coordinated a slew of high-profile events featuring Campbell, such as Campo Pequeno 2011 and 2013, Sumol Summer Fest 2012, which pulled in 25,000 people, as well as Sudoeste 2013 and Festival do Crato 2013, which each had more than 50,000 people attend– astronomically large numbers for Portugal!

Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira

In 2016 Duda was the A&R man on Campbell’s hit song “Do You No Wrong,” which has garnered over 10 million views on YouTube, and earned a Gold and Platinum Award on the Portuguese market. A major hit in Portugal, “Do You No Wrong” was produced by Lhast, who Duda also works with as a music producer and A& R specialist. Duda also coordinated the release of the artist’s 2017 single “Heaven,” as well as the music video, which has garnered more than two million views since being release at the tail end of April.

Campbell says, “What I appreciate the most about working with Duda is his versatility as a career advisor/manager and the way he can balance a deep understand of the current music business while never forgetting that an artist needs to be in touch with his audience. This enables him to provide great input on how an artist should work the business aspect of his career without ever jeopardizing the relationship with his fans.”

In 2014 Duda formed Bridgetown Talent Agency with Bernardo Miranda, Afonso Ferreira and Richie Campbell. Today Bridgetown Talent Agency, which has become one of the most successful booking agencies in Portugal, represents a wide range of artists including Dengaz, Mishlawi, Curt Davis, Plutonio, DJ Dadda and the comedians Luís Franco-Bastos and Pedro Teixeira da Mota.

In 2015 Duda also started DGF Agency, an imprint agency that handles counseling, A&R, management, releases, PR and promotions for its artists. Some of the major artists Duda oversees as a music producer and A& R specialist through DGF include Lhast, Karetus, Krativ and Andre Melo. He is also working as a lead  A&R man at Rebeleon Entertainment where he is handling the release of several upcoming albums, EPs and a few highly anticipated singles for artists such as La Santa Cecilia, Gloria Trevi, Alejandra Guzman, Mon Laferte, and Enjambre.

A well-known name throughout the U.S. music industry, Rebeleon Entertainment partnered with BMI last year to produce the 6th Annual ‘Los Producers’ event in Las Vegas during the Grammy Awards, which included performances from Latin Grammy nominees and music from other trendsetters in the Latin music industry.

After 10 years in the industry Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira has not only managed to rise to the top of the music industry in Portugal and make his name known across the world, but he continues to bring the same level of fervor and adept skill to every project he takes on.

In the end Duda says, “I would love to look back to my career and feel proud of the work that I have put in, the results of it, and the impression that it had on society. Hopefully someone can feel inspired to create more and take some energy out of my experiences.”