Digital Bled is the brainchild of João Pedro Veloso Rodrigues, a Portuguese producer/musician/DJ who has lived in Paris since the '70s. The Paris resident, who often goes by DJ Pedro, favors an intriguing, highly percussive blend of electronica (especially trip-hop) and world music. Digital Bled has some subtle South American influences -- namely Afro-Brazilian -- as well as occasional hints of Portuguese music, but its experiments owe a lot more to the Middle East, North Africa, and India. Pedro's interest in music goes back to childhood; he was born in Estoril, Portugal, and he was only a kid when a trumpet-playing neighbor encouraged him to listen to Portuguese music. At 11, Pedro left Portugal with his parents and moved to Paris, where he got into a wide variety of non-Portuguese sounds. After buying a copy of the Shaft soundtrack in a Paris department store, he became seriously interested in '60s and '70s soul music; and he also developed a strong interest in rock (David Bowie and Pink Floyd were among his favorites). As a teenager, Pedro learned to play different instruments, including drums, bass, and guitar. Then, as a young adult, he got into a variety of music-related activities. Pedro became a nighttime salesman for a Paris record store, and he also became a club jock in France's largest city; that was when he started going by DJ Pedro.
It was in the '80s that Pedro got into producing and mixing and learned a lot about electronic music. For several years, Pedro was involved with Paris' hip-hop scene, but he didn't want to be a full-time hip-hopper and ended up mixing soundtracks; not only soundtracks for films, but also the soundtracks of various fashion shows (including the Xuly Bet and Isabel Marant shows). Pedro's Digital Bled project got underway in the '90s, when he started collaborating with raï singer Youcef Boukela. In addition to singing raï -- a funky, Western-influenced style of North African pop that came out of Algeria and is quite popular in Paris' Arabic community -- Boukela is a flexible musician who plays the electric bass and the berimbau (a string instrument that has been heard on a lot of Afro-Brazilian recordings). Boukela was perfect for Digital Bled because, like Pedro, he had a variety of Eastern and Western influences. He shared Pedro's enthusiasm for electronica and trip-hop; Boukela, a member of the Orchestre National de Barbès (ONB), also shared his interest in Middle Eastern, North African, and Indian music. Digital Bled's other participants have included electric bassist Dany'O and Brazilian saxophonist Glaucus Linx, who is known for his work with world music icon Salif Keita. Caravana was released in the United States by Tinder in 2002. ~ Alex Henderson