Exploring the New Sounds of Brazil

 The New Brazilian Music: Pernambuco
The New Brazilian Music: Pernambuco

Brazil is a country with an incredibly rich variety of music and World Music Central has received a large number of new CDs from the South American nation. This is a sampling of what’s new in Brazilian music.

On The New Brazilian Music: Pernambuco (Trama, 2005) one can find the increasingly popular sounds of Pernambuco, the region in northeastern Brazil. The African and European influences have produced a melting pot that developed numerous musical styles, from traditional forró to trendy mangue beat. The artists featured are starting to become better known outside Brazil: Isaar, Naçao Zumbi, DJ Dolores, Cascabulho, Mundo Livre Sa, Antonio Nóbrega, Otto, Lenine and Caju & Castanha. Forget about samba beats and bossa nova. The new artists from Pernambuco combine tradition with rock, electronica and Afro-Brazilian beats. This is some of the hottest music coming out of Brazil.

Modern Traditions Ensemble - New Old Music
Modern Traditions Ensemble – New Old Music

For a different angle of Brazilian music, Adventure Music has released New Old Music by Modern Traditions Ensemble (Adventure Music, 2005). The all-acoustic ensemble is composed of piano, mandolin, guitar, saxophone, clarinet and percussion. The six musicians combine jazz, classical and folk music elements. The result is an intimate restful sound that makes you think of a cozy Brazilian café.

Even though Brazil exports a myriad of musical sounds, it also absorbs foreign trends. Hip hop has become part of the Brazilian landscape. However, as it happens in many other countries, it has been adapted. Sujeito Homem, Vol. 2 (Trama, 2005) by Rappin’ Hood shows what happens to rap when it gets an injection of Brazilian music, including Afro-Brazilian beats, stringed instruments and jazz. The album includes guest appearances by Brazilian legends such as Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

Various Artists - Samba
Various Artists – Samba

For a more familiar Brazilian sound, Samba (ARC Music, 2005), featuring several artists, presents traditional samba pieces. This is catchy melodic samba, not the drum heavy batucada.

Putumayo  presents... Brazilian Lounge
Putumayo presents… Brazilian Lounge

Putumayo already has several compilations of Brazilian music. In this case, Brazilian Lounge (Putumayo World Music, 2006) focuses on artists that combine charming Brazilian melodies with easy listening electronica. The album features many of Brazil’s current stars, such as Paula Morelenbaum, Adriana Calcanhotto, Seu Jorge, Bebel Gilberto and many more.

Jazz is a major force in Brazil. Keyboardist and singer Ed Motta plays a mix of jazz berats. On Aystelum (Trama, 2005), he delivers powerful contemporary jazz (the real stuff, not the watered down smooth jazz some Americans call contemporary jazz), with magical electric piano, a grooving rhythm section and pulsating brass. He also has pieces with a strong Brazilian component, especially on the vocals and percussion side. The CD booklet needs to be mentioned too. It folds open and has a colorful 1960s-1970s European comic book feel.

Brazil is a land of excellent guitarists. Veteran player Carlos Barbosa-Lima has a new album, Carioca (Zoho, 2006). He performs masterfully Brazilian classics, from sambas to bossa nova, accompanied on some tracks by percussion, bass and mandolin. He even ventures into sentimental Puerto Rican music, featuring Spanish vocals by Danny Rivera.

Max de Castro is one of the greatest discoveries I’ve had recently from Brazil. He is a multi-instrumentalist who uses MPB, rock, bossa, funk, jazz and electronica to create one of the most satisfying albums to have come out of Brazil recently. On Max de Castro, the Brazilian musician uses keyboards, talk box and vocals. Joining de Castro are top instrumentalists such as the legendary percussionist Naná Vasconcelos.

One of the most interesting initiatives out of Brazil came about when João Marcello Bôscoli (president of Trama) and the artistic vice-president of Universal, Max Pierre, led to the idea of mixing the bossa nova classic Elis & Tom album in stereo and 5.1 surround. During three months, Cesar Camargo Mariano, who co-produced, played piano and did most of the arrangements on the original 1974 recordings (and who was also married to Elis at the time), ensconced himself in the Trama studios alongside sound engineer Luis Paulo Serafim. Cesar’s first concern was to change nothing of the original recording. He created a map with the positions of the instruments during the recording at the MGM studios in Los Angeles.

The result is a superb 2-CD set, Elis & Tom, with a new stereo mix of the original album, two bonus tracks and a DVD. A must have in order to grasp the essence of bossa nova.

The original Elis & Tom was recorded after successful singer Elis Regina mentioned to her label her interest in recording an album of music by Tom Jobim with Tom Jobim. In January of 1974, Antonio Carlos Jobim received a telephone call from André Midani, president of Phonogram (Phillips), proposing the recording of a record with Elis Regina. Tom accepted the invite.

The musicians who participate in Jobim Now are not Brazilian, but they pay jazz tribute to one Brazil’s greatest composers, Antonio Carlos Jobim. The Hagberg/Bergeren Quartet present jazz versions of some of Jobim’s best known pieces. The quartet is formed by Tom Bergeron on saxophone and percussion, Garry Hagberg on guitars, Mark Schneider on bass and Alan Tarpinian on drums and percussion.

And, finally, pianist Jovino Santos Neto takes the listener through a long list of Brazilian styles. Jovino has lived in Seattle (Washington, USA) for many years. For Roda Carioca he returned to his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, where he recruited some of Brazil’s most impressive performers to contribute to the CD’s eleven tracks. His approach on Roda Carioca is jazz based, featuring piano, bass and percussion. The vibrant album contains choro, coco, gafieira, marcha rancho, and samba. The collaborators participating in the album include special guests such as the legendary Hermeto Pascoal, singer Joyce, percussionist Fabio Pascoal, Hamilton de Holanda on mandolin, guitarist Marcos Amorim and Gabriel Grossi on harmonica. Jovino will perform a small series of shows and workshops throughout the US to support the release of Roda Carioca.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.