Interviews & Profiles

Interview by: Francis Tanneur

Contact Francis Tanneur at: :

cbarbosa.jpg (104909 bytes) How and when did you start in the music business?

   I was 22 years old. I started as a mobile DJ in the Bronx. Then I became a WKTU reporter. I would report my top 20 list to the station once a week, which kind of got me in with various record companies, as they would call me to promote their material. I would also make the rounds to the record companies to get my promotional records, and met a lot of people in the business. I met Nelson Cruz, a Billboard reporter at the time and we started hanging out. Then Nelson joined a Mobile DJ crew that I headed called "The New York City Mixologists".

As Nelson and I made the rounds at the labels, we would frequently see Sergio Cossa and Curtis Urbina at Emergency Records.

They thought we where a couple of funny wise guys and offered to sign us as a comedy team to do some stuff with the Emergency Filmworks side of the company. So we signed a recording contract.  With time passing and no action on the Filmworks side of Emergency taking off yet, Sergio suggested for us to do a Rap record or something. Sergio brought an instrumental track back from Italy and I wrote a Rap over it called “The game of life” He thought it sounded good and brought us into the studio to record it. Meanwhile, at home, my grandmother lent me some money to purchase a keyboard (Roland JX-3P) and some other drum and Bass boxes (Roland TB 303).

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The Roland JX-3p
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The famous classic - Roland TB 303
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shannon.jpg (10060 bytes) Although I had no formal musical training, I wanted to mess around with the stuff to entertain all these musical ideas I had in my head and make tracks that I could play along at the Mobile DJ gigs I had. The first night I got the stuff home, I composed the track “Fire on Ice” which was the track to “Let The Music Play”. As I would go to get records at the record companies, I would play the track for people and they thought it sounded pretty kool and different from what they normally would here. I played the track for Sergio and he loved it as well.

Well, back to the studio with Nelson. We where in recording the Rap and Sergio brought in Mark Liggett to be the producer. Mark had just finished producing a cut for Sergio so he decided to bring him in on this project. We gave the rap a go and it was coming out ok. At the end of the session, I pulled out the “Fire and Ice” track and played it for Liggett. He got very excited and said why are we working on the Rap record when this shows so much more promise. I said kool, Sergio already loves it. I also expressed that fact that I would have to be the producer on it as well as it was my baby and also my foot in the door to producing. He said kool, let’s tell Sergio that this is what we should be working on.

Sergio gave us the green light. Mark asked me if I had lyrics. I said no but I would try and write some. He asked if at the same time, he could give the track to a songwriter friend to see what he comes up with. I said sure, whoever writes the best song, no problem.

He gave the track to Ed Chisolm and when I heard the song over the track, I was very excited. We had the song. It was originally titled “Love put us into a groove” but we renamed it to what we felt was the obvious hook, “Let the music play”. We held auditions for vocalists. Shannon Green was the first to try out.

The rest is history….

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I'm just curious, what was exactly the meaning of "The New York City Mixologist" (your mobile DJ crew) ?

Well, nothing too special. Just that “Mixologist” meaning an expert at mixing as in mixing records.  

How did a mobile DJ become a producer ? What was your main motivation ?

Basically, back then, like today, in fact today more than ever, as a DJ, you know what moves your crowd. The idea was to create beats and grooves that I could use to mix in and out of the records I was playing. I really didn’t buy the equipment to produce records but to just play live as I DJ’s. 

Could you tell us what is exactly the work of a producer ?

Well, the textbook definition of the “Producer” is the person who is basically responsible for the delivery of the master recording to the person or company that hires you. This means that you need to do anything and everything in you power to get the job done whether you do everything yourself or hire the people to do it. In Dance music particularly, most producers are also the arrangers (the person who actually comes up with the musical parts and ideas) This is not necessarily a requirement to be the producer. You can come up with all, some or none of the musical ideas just as long as you cause it to happen. The producer gets the glory if it’s a hit and gets the blame when it’s a stiff.

A   natural instinct being a DJ at the time. DJ’s where who you hired to do remixes. I started out as a DJ so it made sense. We had our DJ remixer in-house.

But for most of your production you also did the remix part of the work ? Why?

A   natural instinct being a DJ at the time. DJ’s where who you hired to do remixes. I started out as a DJ so it made sense. We had our DJ remixer in-house.

What is your criterion of selection when you decide to produce or remix an artist?

Song quality, singer and budget.

Are you also interested in the writing, or maybe by starting a singing carrer ?

Singing, no! Writing, of course, that’s been an important part of my career from the start.

What is the difference between a good producer and a bad one ?

The most important thing I think is how important the producer regards both the song quality and the vocal performance. 

Please, could you be more specific?

Anybody can sit and baby-sit good musicians playing parts on a song. What is important is how good the song is that the producer chooses to work on. Also, after a great song is chosen, a good producer will work hard with the lead vocalist to get the best vocal performance possible. A great song with a great singer will make most producers shine. 

In 1983, your producer’s career really began with “Let the music play” by Shannon on Emergency Records. This song was a huge international hit, is there any particular reason for this big success?

Who knows the reason for anything really? I could only echo other opinions I have heard as to why it happened so big.

1. The sound was fresh and new. Most beats at the time weren’t as syncopated as this track had. Mostly 4 on the floor stuff.
2. The bottom line is that the song had a hell of a hook.
3. Mostly LUCK

Do you think that this international success was because the song and the style of Shannon sounded different for the music lovers? And maybe the people expected something new musically talking?

Yes, I think so. Everybody was ready for some new ear candy. 

What are you thinking about the Y2K versions of “Give me tonight” and “Let the music play” by Shannon on Contagious Records?

I loved the “Give me tonight” remix. I thought it sounded great. I just recently heard the “Let the music play” remix and thought it was kool too but definitely liked the “Give me tonight” one better. 

Do you still work with Shannon? We didn’t see any new track from you on her recent album “The best is yet to come”?

Shannon and I are very kool with each other. If the opportunity arises to work with her on something new again, it will happen. It just depends on how interested the record company is in the idea of putting us back together again for something new. I’m here, waiting and ready for whatever. I dream of the day that someone would have me write and produce a song in the old Shannon style and produce it with the same formula including using Jimi Tunnel on backgrounds etc. The works. The real Shannon 2000 so to speak. Can you imagine?

What does “Ligosa” mean?

Simply, Ligosa is a combination of the LIG in LIGgett and the OSA in BarbOSA. Nothing exciting and a pretty stupid sounding name I always thought but it stuck… 

00224937.jpg (16892 bytes) Why and when did you launch Ligosa Records?

We started the label so we didn’t have to go out and shop every master we did. Probably the same reasons that why most producers and production companies do it. Creative control, more potential profits and to gain the experience of that side of the business. Our first release was “My heart gets all the breaks” by Monet in 1986, and was pretty successful.
Find Monet on the 80's Dance Trax CD 

What were exactly the functions of Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa inside the Ligosa team?

Rather than break it down record to record and part to part, let’s just say one could not function without the other in that particular relationship in the delivery of those records. Regardless of whoever came up with most of the ideas on a particular song, the final outcome was always affected by the both of us. In general I could tell you that usually I would start with the bottom (Street) aspect of the records. Drums, Bass, groove and Marks embellishments would come over that with the more poppy radio ish overdubs. A good combination of 2 different worlds. He may have been on the phone more than me and me burning the midnight oil on the dub edits etc. more than him. But remember what I said about what a producer’s job is! Whatever it takes to deliver the finished master. One can’t function without the other.  

Do you think that being complementary in the work was the key for the success of your partnership?

Yes, as well as the mutual respect we had for each other at the time.  

Could you let us know what was the most successful record for Ligosa Records?

Probably – “Bad of the heart” George Lamond, but perhaps Monet’s “My heart gets all the breaks”. I don’t remember. 

Why did Ligosa Records definitively stop their activities after five years of existence (from 1986 to 1991)?

Lack of big enough hits, low activity (Not many records released). We were pretty occupied with George while he was on Columbia Records.  

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Can we expect, one day, to see Ligosa Records back on the Freestyle scene?

I wouldn’t count on the Ligosa imprint showing its face with anything new unfortunately. Those days are over L 

And at the same time Chris Barbosa and Mark Liggett split up, what really happened?

The answer to this question is what has taken me the longest to get this interview done with. At this point I really can’t even begin to get into it again. You are free to quote me from the DMA article where I covered this but really don’t want to hash over it again. All I will say is that Mark Liggett made certain decisions that would benefit him and not us as a team. His actions where not to my advantage and disregarded the 12 year relationship we had. I have never publicly bashed him and will not now so the details of what happened will remain personal and really doesn’t mater anyway. A sensitive area to say the least, but since I have moved on, I prefer to put the details behind me as well.

This is a good answer Chris, and I'm the first one to say that I totally respect it. So, after this sad separation, you didn’t opt for a solo career, but on the contrary, you did an another association with two producers/remixers: Lenny Holffman & Gaspare Valenti. Why?

They approached me to do some things with them. I found them to be very talented as well as good people. I felt we could do some cool things together and I’m happy we hooked up.

How did you get involved in this extraordinary project “We are the one’s” by Legends Of Style?

It was an idea I had for the longest. Over the years I gained relationships with all the artists so I was able to get them together for this. They thought it was a good idea that was never done before so I gave it a go.

How did you manage to rally all those Freestyle legends?

It was easy since I knew all of them and have worked with most of them in capacity or another. Surprisingly enough, It was relatively easy to get their schedules to jive and get it done. That part was pure luck since you can imagine they are all so busy. 

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How was the recording at the studio?

Recording the legends of freestyle was an interesting procedure. Most of the artists sung their parts separately, sometimes with other artists present at the same time, sometimes alone. All the girls except for Brenda K. Starr did their background parts together then we added Brenda to the blend when she sang her lead. Same thing for the guys. They did their background parts together except for Tony Moran who also sung alone on another day. It all came together with the magic of mixing.

Why did this great record not encounter a larger audience? Is it a question of distribution?

Not really, distribution was set up to handle the record if it took off. It was radio's unfortunate abandonment of New Freestyle music. I am truly surprised that that record didn’t get the radio play one would expect on a record with all those power house Freestyle artists weather one thought the song was strong or not.

I’m very intrigued by the Freestyle world because it’s certainly one of the genres that doesn’t possess any real structure! You don’t have any specialized distributor; the record companies have difficulties to sell their productions whereas the retail stores don’t understand why it is so difficult to get them. Weird isn’t it?

Yes, there seems to be a demand for it on one end but no answer to meet that demand in the sense of record companies releasing quality material and radio stations willing to play it.

After all these years, you continue to manage and produce this terrific artist called George Lamond. How and when did you get in touch with him; and why you are so involved in his career?

Well, as for being so involved in his career, the simple fact that I am his manager explains that. I met George whatever year it was that I signed him. I believe it was around 1987. I was played a demo of his stuff by Marilyn Rodriguez (Writer of “No reason to cry” by Judy Torres and” I won’t stop loving you” by C-Bank. By the way, “No reason to cry” was a ballad demos by George before it was given to Judy to be cut as a Freestyle song) I thought George was a great talent so I signed him. The rest is as they say, “history”!

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Do we stand a chance to see you produce the next Freestyle single of George Lamond? As for instance, a single release of “Just in time” or “Someone like you” available on his compilation!

If and when George records more Freestyle, chances are good that I will do some of it. Let’s hope he does more stuff. I know he wants to so when the right opportunity arises, it will happen.

Since the beginning of your carrer, you worked with such great artists as Shannon, Monet, Fascination, Jason Tomi, Luis Damon, Cynthia, Sa-Fire, Jay Novelle, Jimi Tunnel, Judy Torres, Patti Day, Zee, Ray Guell... Is it easier to work with male singers, females singers or group ?

Probably male vocalists are the easier to work with. They aren’t as demanding and particular as most female artists I have worked with. Of course there are exceptions to that rule. Bands are the hardest as you need to try and satisfy more than one person. That’s usually impossible.

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Most of the titles that you produced (with or without Mark Liggett) contain fat rhythm beat. How did you create this sound that certain other professionals tried to plagiarize, in vain?

If you are referring to the actual programming of the rhythms, then all I can say is it is just what’s in me growing up on Salsa, Pop & R&B. If, when you say Fat rhythms you’re referring to the size of the drum sounds themselves, It started with “Let the music play” I wanted to mimic the ambient sound that “Looking for the perfect beat” by Soul Sonic Force had in that part of the song when they say “Beat this” As a DJ, I always liked how big that part sounded. With the Shannon record, it was the first time to my knowledge that such an ambient drum sound was used for the whole record, not just in one section. I played the Soul Sonic Force snippet to Liggett and Rod Hui (Engineer and listed co-producer on the Shannon song) Rod went to work trying to mimic that sound with Liggett on shotgun with his studio experience and the hybrid ambient drum sound on Shannon was born. We simply continued the process after that. Then when sampling came along, it was even easier for us to attain as well as anyone else at that point who just had to sample it if they wanted it.

At the present time, there are more women in the business on the Freestyle scene? Why are the male singers so rare?

I’m not sure. Perhaps some guys feel like Freestyle songs touch too often on romance, tragedy and emotions that would require them to tap into their feminine side. We must be true to the macho thing right? 

Throughout the years you remained faithful to this music, why?

Although I dabbled, unsuccessfully in other musical areas and feel I have the chops to go other places, my success has always been with Freestyle and dance music in general. Plus, I really do love it.

How did you get involved on some singles or LP’s with such non-Freestyle artists like Billy Idol, George Michael / Queen, New Kids On The Block, The Spinners, Public Enemy, etc.? Why this personal choice?

Any opportunity to work with such great names as you have mentioned is a great opportunity. We where hired to do stuff for them based on our success with Shannon. When you’re the flavor of the month and the phone is ringing, you strike when the iron is hot.

A lot of Freestyle amateurs say that it’s the only music with a soul and a meaning, while others who are not very familiar with this music say that Freestyle is old-fashioned and cheesy! What is your opinion?

I believe it is music with a soul and a meaning but not the only music like that. As for old-fashioned and cheesy, some of it was. I suppose everyone’s right to an extent.

In the Eighties, this music was called Latin Hip-Hop, and now Freestyle? Why?

Beats me??? Somebody just named it Freestyle for a reason and it stuck…

Any idea of who did that first?

Not really. I have heard of a few people claim to be the pioneers of Freestyle in a recent Freestyle chat room bulletin board ( but I really don’t know who coined the phrase.

“Let the music play” by Shannon was the first Latin Hip-Hop/Freestyle song. Is it true?

Yes and No. I believe it was one of the first Dance records to incorporate a syncopated kick drum pattern, but I'm not sure that alone constitutes Freestyle. I do agree that it could be in the Freestyle category. 

Why did Freestyle music become an underground music?

Because of the vast number of Freestyle followers there still are and that fact that radio has abandoned this format except for the classics. “Underground” so to speak I guess is the only way to get it…

What do you think of the new Freestyle sound (Progressive Freestyle)? Is there a real market for this genre?

It’s kool. Some overuse of Planet Rock I suppose but then again that’s what they want. Give it to them. Yes, I think there is an apparent market for it.

Which songs or artists in Progressive Freestyle did you like recently?

Sonique is definitely kool. Also La Rissa, etc…

Year after year, Freestyle music seems to have lost an important element: the Latin flavor. Is it because there are less Latinos in the Freestyle business?

That’s possible, but probably not. In some cases, things just seem to have gotten more Techno based and electronic paying less attention to the rhythms.

In your eyes, what was (were) the best year(s) for Freestyle? Why?

The early nineties seem to be the best days of freestyle simply because that’s when it was most popular here in the US. 

What do you think of the comeback of the legendary TKA? Is it good for the image and the future of Freestyle music?

Yes I think it’s great. They are Freestyle legends and their return definitely strengthens the Genre.

Do you miss the Latin Hip-Hop genre?

That’s a question for them not me. I would like to think so. 

Which artist or band would you love to work with?

In a non-Freestyle mode, Jennifer Lopez, Christine Aguilar etc. Same artists most people would love an opportunity to produce.

Your last Freestyle project (two years ago) was for a very talented artist called Shawn Michael, "From this moment on"; Could you let us know why this fantastic song and artist never found a label ?

What can I say? It happens everyday. Some people loved it. Some people didn’t like it enough to commit to it. I’m not sure it was really shopped thoroughly enough. Perhaps it was. Who will ever know? All you can do is move on to the next thing and hope for the best. Best of luck to Shawn.

Shawn Michaels' project never got released as a single ! Why is it so difficult for a new artist to get a record deal, even if the singer is full of Shawn (one of the most beautiful voice and great artist at the present time) ?

It has always been hard to get noticed in the Rec biz. It always will be. Freestyle has an even harder time getting noticed and taken seriously due to the lack of support at radio these days. I think that with that in mind, most record co. are putting out these compilations as a more affordable way to give multiple artists shot.

What is the future for Chris Barbosa? Do we have the chance to see you back more active in Freestyle music?

Sure, hopefully in 2001. I got sidetracked with my son a little here in 2000 but have some good plans for next year in Freestyle as well as other types of music. Mostly writing.

Why have you been so discreet in the business these lasts past years ?

Lamond management; my new family and that fact that I always have been somewhat discrete. I have always flown in low under the radar.

Are you working on any new Freestyle project(s) ?

I’ve been approached to do a Freestyle remake album with Classic Freestyle artists. Producing up to date versions of their hits. Let’s hope it happens.

I would love to send some of the mixes to Patrice in France for some of his awesome edit work. I think he’s a genius. I would love to work with him. It takes a lot to impress me. ( You know Chris, you certainly are the only person to possess all the remixes done by Patrice (a French DJ specialized in editing). And you will be (maybe) the only one ‘cause the professionals that I contact seem not to care about his talent. Or maybe they don’t like edits anymore?! Anyway, he will be very happy and proud to work with you in the future. So, don’t hesitate to ask him…some work!

What do you think of the Freestyle scene ?

It seems to have a pretty strong following underground as you have mentioned. I hope it gets better. I hope it comes back to the surface again. By that time, if I’m not walking around with a cane trying to find my teeth, perhaps I could make a comeback J

Do you still see a market ?

At one point I thought “No” but I really do now as I see the reaction when George performs his classics at the clubs. I see the hunger in the audience for more. I think so… Yes.

What would you change in the Freestyle industry today ?

Aside from waving a magic wand and bringing it back to the popularity level it once enjoyed, I wouldn’t change much about it. Let it evolve. The younger ears are hearing something different then what we where hearing so let all the new school styles flow. Just keep some “New” old school stuff coming for the die-hards.

What advice or message would you give to future artists/producers ?

Work hard at your craft. Strive for great songs and good sounding productions. Producers, work with great singers. Let’s get the quality back. Most importantly Song, Song, Song!

Do you have any particular message to give to the Freestyle community ?

Although by choice I don’t really have that much of a “Visual presence” on the Freestyle scene like other producers, understand that it is in no way a Dis to the style of music. I just am more on the Down low because that’s just me. I love the music and very much appreciate all the support I get from everyone who has expressed their admiration for my work. Thanks to all…

Thank you Chris for arranging this interview...


Interviews & Profiles