For those of you who have been locked away in a dark room for the past few weeks, the football World Cup is well under way, and with that in mind I thought I would share with you some of my favourite music from the vibrant and colourful host nation that is Brazil.
Behind the façade of the flourishing industrialisation that has taken place in recent decades, Brazil is home to some of the largest, most run-down and overcrowded shantytowns on the planet with millions of people living in squalor. But despite the poverty and hardship, the favelas bring with them life and passion, which in turn breathes rhythm and raw talent and thus Brazil is known and respected internationally for its music and dance. The most prevalent form of music in Brazil is samba, a blend of African and Latin rhythms, but the late ‘50s and early ‘60s also gave birth to bossa nova; a Brazilian tinged synthesis of jazz and funk. And so without further ado, here are three of my favourite Brazilian records with a little insight into the minds behind them.
Azymuth – Rico Suave Bossa Nova (2010)
First on the list comes from funk trio Azymuth. Formed in 1972 the band are still knocking out albums and gigging, although the original keyboardist, Jose Roberto Bertrami, is no longer with us. The band had a major hit single in 1979 with ‘Jazz Carnival’ but the track featured here was actually inspired by the hip-hop world. ‘Rico Suave Bossa Nova’ is a delightful piece of jazz; bouncy, rhythmic and with wonderfully lively, unassuming vocals. The track is actually a 2010 cover of J Dilla’s 2001 track of the same name, which, to round off the circle of inspiration, was inspired by Azymuth.
But it wasn’t only Jay Dee who got involved with the band. Madlib was also a huge fan and actually wrote a fantastic album in 2008 with the band’s drummer and percussionist Ivan Conti under the guise ‘Jackson Conti’. The masterpiece of an album, entitled ‘Sujinho’, is an exceptional journey through jazz, funk and hip-hop with a real Brazilian flavour.
Antonio Adolfo e A Brazuca – Transamazonica (1971)
A huge proponent of both the jazz and bossa nova movements, Antonio Adolfo is a pianist, composer and teacher from Rio de Janeiro. This incredible collaboration with the A Brazuca band, taken from their 1971 album, is an energetic, jazzy journey through the Amazon, hence the name ‘Transamazonica’. High octane keys and percussion are met with stunning vocals as the track veers towards a sudden moment of rest. A drum break straight out of the rainforest follows, before launching straight back into dizzying keyboard madness. Nowadays, between gigs, Adolfo is imparting his musical wisdom upon the young minds of Rio de Janeiro having founded the Centro Musical Antonio Adolfo school in 1985.
Wilson Simonal – Nem Vem Que Não (1970)
Not only was Wilson Simonal a remarkably talented singer, but he also has a unique and somewhat sinister story that essentially led to the end of his music career. As the first black pop star in Brazil, Senhor Simonal was a hit in the ‘60s, but it all turned sour when he was accused of being an informant for Brazil’s military regime, which aimed to censor and repress creativity and anything that might criticize their rule. This caused his fans to turn their backs and fellow musicians to ostracise him. He maintained his innocence up until his death in 2000 but unfortunately his reputation was long shattered and his music suffered drastically. His 1970 track ‘Nem Vem Que Não Tem’ was one of his most charismatic numbers, infusing soul and jazz with Brazilian charm to stunning effect.