Carol Schutzer, aka São Paulo’s DJ Cashu, is a pillar of her city’s queer electronic music community. For the past eight years, she has been bringing politics back to the dancefloor and building a beacon of cultural resistance with her paradigm-shifting collective and record label Mamba Negra, co-founded with musician and activist Laura Diaz. Rooted in resistance and radical politics, Mamba Negra has been instrumental in amplifying marginalised voices in a country that holds one of the world’s highest rates of violence against LGBTQIA+ people, and in the era of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.
Last year, a trans person was reportedly murdered every two days in Brazil, according to the national advocacy group ANTRA. Mamba Negra have worked closely with Casa Florescer — an NGO providing support to the trans community — for the past five years, raising funds and co-hosting street parties in São Paulo. The collective has created a much-needed safe space for women and the LGBTQIA+ community in Brazil.
Diaz and Schutzer met on the free party circuit back in 2012 — while Schutzer was studying architecture at college in São Paulo — and soon began organising street parties in collaboration with the Voodoohop collective. The idea for the politically minded Mamba Negra was conceived in 2013; that June, more than one million people in cities all over Brazil took to the streets to protest against multiple issues, including police brutality and corruption. Diaz and Schutzer christened their party with a rooftop rave at Schutzer’s old apartment, and drew a crowd of 400 revellers.
Spurred on by their early involvement in an arts occupation movement that aimed to repurpose and reclaim urban space, Diaz and Schutzer took their itinerant party to abandoned factories and other neglected buildings across the city. Fostering a sense of community is important to Schutzer.
“I employ a micro-political approach,” she says. “I’m thinking about the people at the party, creating a safe space, giving away free water — as it’s not a thing that happens here in Brazil — offering a place where people can rest, giving away fruit in the morning and communicating with the public to ask for accountability, things like that.
“In Brazil, the club scene has historically been very male-dominated, and I think it’s the same in Europe with a lot of techno parties, where you don’t feel super comfortable inside,” she continues. “But we have created a comfortable place in Mamba, even with the existence of drugs and hard music. Even my parents went — and loved it.”
Since 2013, Mamba Negra have been throwing regular parties that provide a refreshing platform for DJs, live performers and visual artists. The record label, MAMBA rec, debuted in 2016 with Teto Preto’s slinky single, ‘Gasolina’, and has since put out two compilations of underground club tracks dedicated to women and the LGBTQIA+ community, ‘KENGARAL ELETROHITS VOL. I’ and ‘VOL. II’, among other music. Released in January this year, the second volume showcased Schutzer’s own voyage into electronic production with the spaced-out techno of ‘Espinheira Santa’, a soft-focus journey of sun-warmed synths and faraway kicks, made in collaboration with fellow Paulistano Mari Herzer.
Schutzer has been learning the production ropes from her pal Voiski, acquiring the same Jomox Xbase 888 drum machine used by the French producer for her debut track. However, she says she is still very much in the ‘dabbling’ phase of her production endeavours. For now, Schutzer is tied up with Mamba Negra-related organising, although, as the pandemic continues to rage across Brazil, she has no idea yet when parties will resume.
“It’s a really messy situation here,” she says. “We’re seeing 4,000 deaths a day at the moment. We had one of the best systems for vaccines here, but the problem is that Bolsonaro didn’t buy the necessary number of vaccines, so it’s just a mess. The health system is in chaos too.”
A few weeks before quarantine measures were introduced in São Paulo last year, Schutzer moved from her downtown apartment into a quieter residential area of the Brazilian megalopolis, where she now lives with her housemates, her boyfriend and her two dogs, Amazona and Pupi. As the early afternoon sun streams through her bedroom window, and with Pupi lying faithfully on the bed behind her, Schutzer recalls her first steps into DJing — which took place at a close- knit festival for Voodoohop in 2014 — and remembers the emotions it unlocked.
“I didn’t plan it, it just happened and I realised I liked it,” she reflects, reminiscing about her early morning set of melancholic techno. “It very soon became my way of connecting with people and with parties without speaking — my way to bring creativity and to communicate with people, while also creating trips that people would enjoy. Creating moods that people can enjoy is still a definite motivation.”
Schutzer’s skills behind the decks, community-minded ethos and versatile selections have landed her gigs at Tbilisi’s Bassiani, Berlin’s Panorama Bar, Amsterdam’s De School, Unsound, Sonar Mexico and Dimensions Festival in São Paulo, but she loves nothing more than amping up the energy and funk for a home-grown audience.
“In Brazil, people like to dance and move their ass so we have a lot of groove, a lot of electro and a lot of Brazilian funk music all mixed in together,” she says. “I hate when I’m alone on stage, I hate stages actually. I like to be around a lot of people.”
Through her intuitive sets, Schutzer captures the musical melting pot of her hometown, where booty-shaking baile funk rubs body parts with nosebleed gabber, hard techno and more. Schutzer’s eclectic mixes and sets are the very embodiment of ‘adventure’; transportive, shapeshifting, wide-eyed journeys in mood and genre mashing; sometimes soothing, often hard. Her selections can flit from after-hours downtempo and forward-thinking experiments in rhythm to speaker-busting hardcore and scratchy acid workouts. “I don’t like to plan my sets too much — I prefer to work off the energy of the crowd and of the party and the place that I’m playing,” she says. “Space influences and directs a lot of my sets in the moment; open spaces, small clubs, they are so different.
“I’ll often change styles, for example moving from electro to house to techno to breakbeat,” she continues, “and a lot of DJs here are like that, as people in Brazil don’t like too much of the same thing for a set. There are a lot of different cultures and immigrants inside Brazil, we have Carnaval culture too.” Recently, Schutzer’s been listening to a lot of Brazilian music and jazz. “More organic styles, not so much electronic stuff. I always put Brazilian productions in my mixes though, I really value the producers here.”
Before the pandemic put the brakes on globetrotting, Schutzer relished the solitary travel afforded to her as an international DJ. “Over the past few years, it’s become a way of organising my head,” she says. Among the things she misses most about her pre-pandemic life, spending quality time alone tops the list. “I know it sounds strange to say that when so many people are really alone at home, but for me, I live with four other people, so I just really miss being able to be by myself.”
However, she is chomping at the bit to play an irl set sometime in the not-too- distant future. “Playing at home isn’t the same thing. I always prefer to connect with people. I have just always been crazy about producing parties; it was the first thing I recognised as something that I really wanted to do, where I could use my creativity to think about space.”
Listen to Cashu's On Cue mix below.