all things Brazilian, political, and fast-foody.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

NEW POST coming soon...

Sorry about that... I had a brief period where I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep coming up with new music, but I'm over it. Coming soon...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Rio massacre

This story appeared in the New York Times International section this morning, concerning a recent massacre of 30 people in a working class suburb of Rio. Speculation is that the murders were carried out by corrupt military police officers who committed the crimes in response to recent efforts to eliminate corruption from the ranks of the police. You can read about the specifics by visiting the above link.

I have a few incoherent thoughts about the whole incident that I wouldn't mind getting feedback on. To begin, it seems as though the most prominent news we receive by way of Brazil (particularly by way of Rio and Sao Paulo) is news of the violence that often times populates conversations I have with other Americans. It is an image of Brazil that is difficult for a lot of Americans to shake, either by virtue of the fact that they've seen City of God, or the fact that they've seen City of God and it has confirmed their worst nightmares.

For anyone that has spent any significant amount of time in Brazil, I'm sure that we share in the mutual frustration that stems from the bad rap Brazil gets on safety. The Times article even falls into the same trap, commencing the article with the following misleadingly vague statement: "At least 30 people were killed in drive-by shootings in two gritty, working class suburbs late Thursday night and early Friday, in what the local authorities described as perhaps the worst blood bath in the history of this often violent metropolis."

What exactly is meant by "often violent" naturally seems underscored by the event described, adhering to the laws of "what bleeds, leads" quite faithfully. However, to editorialize a story so steeped in speculation to begin with is unfair to the Brazil I know and love. Similarly, to reduce the country to a sun-bathing, thong-sporting caipirinha of a nation is equally disturbing.

Brazil seems often misrepresented in the media, and thus in American culture. I think the preponderence of "chill Brazillian lounge" is directly correlated to the image that is communicated so effectively and yet so inaccurately in stories like the aforementioned one, leaving it up to us to resolve the conflicting images of care-free party people and AK47 wielding 6 year-olds by resorting to recycled popular music from 50 years ago. Which isn't to say that it can't be done extremely well...

The one thing that Brazilian culture, and in turn music, does retain is sheer beauty. My previous comments notwithstanding, Brazilian culture thrives today in a way that is seldom appreciated here in the United States because of our preoccupation with the issue of crime. It warrants, and deserves, a trip to Brazil to see for yourself. The culture is complex, significant, and most of concern to many people, original. Crime is an issue, but as many of my faculty members abroad have said, the United States is the most dangerous country in the world and we don't seem to have any problem with it.

This isn't meant as an ideological rant in any sense; instead it is a plea to look beyond the limited universe of stereotypical images of Brazil, whether those images be favelas or beaches. Most of you are here because you already know how rich Brazilian culture can be, but passing along the message is equally important. How so many Americans can be completely oblivious to a nation of 80 million people is baffling, to say the least. What is more disturbing, however, is how much our two nations have in common with each other. I think Americans are in a unique position to relate to Americans more so than perhaps any other nation in the world, and there was a time in our collective history when we appreciated that.

So ends my rant... I started feeling guilty that I said I was going to discuss "politics" on this blog, but had failed to do so thus far. Happy April Showers to all, and I'll be back with some music in a couple of days.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Damn that's dirtay...

Diplo, Favela on Blast: Partial Clip

By now, Diplo and/or Hollertronix have gotten their props from pretty much every major online music outlet out there. As a result, I'll spare you from the little that I know about them, only because there is plenty of information about them in circulation. So I'm going to stick to the most relevant information I could find.

The story here has to do with baile funk, a style of music that has, according to genre promoter and expert DJ Marlboro, existed in some form for about 20 years, developing directly out of Miami bass. Andy Cumming writes, "In the middle of the eighties, Miami Bass appeared in Florida, it's imagery of beaches, sunshine and big-bootied black women combined with the strong Latin American presence in Miami may go a long way to explaining it's immediate popularity in Rio."

The music feels about as raw as anything out there. Even if you have absolutely no idea what they're saying, something about it feels dirty, which is what I think makes it so appealing. With the growing popularity of reggaetone, it seems we're on the cusp of a new movement in grungy dance music. The crude production and cruder vocals in combination with recognizable beats make it instantly danceable.

What's Diplo's role in all of this? According to turntablelab, "Diplo has been all over the place lately, and one of his most recent trips was an assignment to cover the emerfing Baile Funk scene in Brazil... This is a 35-minute mix of the stuff Diplo was able to dig up down there, with a little extra flavor thrown on top."

This is a short clip from Favela on Blast. You can pick up the whole mix from turntablelab for 10 bones. I highly recommend it, at least for an education.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Celso Fonseca & Ronaldo Bastos, Juventude/Slow Motion Bossa Nova: Samba É Tudo

First off, apologies to everyone... It's been a hectic month of getting sick then getting better, and working on various side projects including (but not limited to) writing the music for a play, working for a newspaper, getting a chapter of Free Culture up and running at Middlebury, trying to get my j-o-b on, getting hopelessly addicted to Arrested Development, a remix of some haitian folk song recordings I found, and to be honest, the reality of the fact that sometimes other music grabs my interest for a while. But I'm back! So let the festa begin...

Well, say what you will about Brazilian lounge or chill, or whatever you want to call it. I've had my moments of frustration with the preponderance of uniformly uninteresting interpretations of music that was pioneering 50 years ago. Yes, bossa nova lends itself to contemporary rhythmic re-workings, precisely because it was so ahead of the curve to begin with and we're just beginning to catch up with it, but that wasn't free licence to put a samba guitar riff behind everything. Not to mention those reworkings tend to ignore everything that has happened in Brazilian popular music since bossa nova.

That being said, this album has its moments. Some are interesting, some are dull, some are English(!). But the whole thing has a musicality that is lacking in a lot of the bossa nova reworkings I was discussing above, which should come as no surprise given Celso Fonseca's musical apprenticeship.

If you happen to be lucky enough to own a copy of Gilberto Gil's MTV Unplugged DVD, you'd see that he has a pretty stellar rhythmic guitarist in the background... That is Celso Fonseca. A regular on Gil's albums of the last 15-20 years, Fonseca lends more of a solid guitar foundation to Gil's rhythmic nylon musings.

This album is one of several that is far more heavilly marketed in the U.S. than it is in Brazil. Take that for what it's worth, but I won't make excuses for the fact that this is a great track off of a solid album.

By the way, lately I've been peeping the Nonesuch Creators @ Carnegie series that NPR has up on their website. I finally caught large segments of the Caetano/David Byrne collaboration I so regretfully missed while I was in Brazil. A Foreign Sound had just come out, and Caetano traveled stateside to do one show in New York. Luckilly, I caught Caetano in Salvador at the Teatro Castro Alves, two blocks from Bethania's place (who I also saw about a month earlier)!

Monday, March 21, 2005

New Post Coming Soon!

Monday, February 14, 2005

(Alta) Fidel(idade) Castro

Max de Castro, Afrosamba: Afrosamba

I warned you. I said that R&B was having a huge influence on contemporary Brazilian music, but you didn't listen, now did you. Given that Brazilian artists have been incorporating funk, soul, motown and other influences into the mix, it doesn't seem all that surprising that today's Brazilian artists take R&B and make it their own.

Much along the same lines as Jair Oliveira (another artist on the Trama Records label... See previous post), Max de Castro is well up on his Andre, Kanye, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys and others. Afrosamba is a tribute to the contemporary R&B influence on the Brazilian music scene, and one of its most accurately and effectively implemented examples. Drum machines and heavy production (which isn't to say bad production, in this case) create a really strong and unique sound, one that, I might dare say, have the ever-elusive "crossover appeal."

De Castro's father, Wilson Simonal, was another pioneer of Brazilian music (I imagine by this point no one is all that surprised). Simonal was Brazil's Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Temptations, etc. all wrapped into one. His records bring to mind the great works of Motown, with a berimbau, pandeiro and agogo just to remind you where they're coming from.

Simonal's other son is Wilson Simoninha, a like-minded soul to his brother Max in the musical sense. His influences are largely the same, and Simoninha is also on the Trama label. More about him in future posts...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Terca-feira gorda

Ilê Aiyê featuring Gilberto Gil, Canto Negro: Que Bloco É Esse?

In honor of Carnaval, I'm throwing up a track by Bahia's Ilê Aiyê, the original afro-bloc from Liberdade, a neighborhood in Salvador, the capitol of the state Bahia. Ilê Aiyê was created 30 years ago to combat racism and spread awareness about various social causes through their music. Each year, the bloc chooses a theme and subsequently commissions pieces for their Carnival performances.

The group is more than a band in the city of Salvador; it is a veritable institution. With a cultural institution and educational program to its name, Ilê Aiyê is an important and significant part of the Bahian cultural landscape, and as a result count Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Carlinhos Brown and other notable Bahians as friends to the institution.

This track, Que Bloco E Esse?, is a classic in the Ilê Aiyê repetoire. The title translates to "What bloc is this?" and is a nod to the black empowerment movement of the 1970's. Gilberto Gil leads on vocals on this rendition, and a version of the song (alternately titled "Ilê Aiyê") appears on his Refavela album.