MPB break

19 03 2013

First it was the Australian hipsters, now here come the Brazilians. This is new MPB (“Musica Popular Brasileira”) act Macau ( or at least one previously unknown to me) featuring the ice-cool Barbara Eugenia.

Summer songs

16 03 2013

Mallu Magalhaes and her song “Highly Sensitive” (used in a Latin American commercial for Windows 8).

Brazilian music now and then: Criolo ao vivo on vimeo and Caetano back from the past

4 03 2013

Brazilian rapper/crooner Criolo has not only taped his concert in Rio, he has put it up on his website to download for free (or a contribution if you wish). See it here.

Meanwhile I also unearthed this cute tribute to the original ‘tropicalistas’ – Brazil’s original  1960s and 70s folk-funky-rock rebels who influence is still felt  – in artists like Criolo – today.


2 03 2013

From the new Caetano Veloso CD, “Abraçaço”.

True love is blind

1 03 2013


Watch the sweet Brazilian short film “Curta – Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho” here, in its entirety with English subtitles (click on the CC in the bottom bar). It is about a blind boy and his (predictable but still sweet) crush on his new friend. The film is now being reworked into a two-hour feature.

Neighbouring Sounds

23 02 2013

Neighbouring Sounds is the first film by Kleber Mendonça Filho, and has been heralded by many critics as the arrival of a major new talent. One writer described it as  “almost, but not quite, great” and most reviews felt that despite some flaws, the film was taut and subtly disquieting. The trailer above, with its masterful intercutting of domestic scenes and ominously building music, certainly seems to support that.

The film follows the lives of those living and working on a block in the city of Recife, in Brazil’s Northwest – at first utterly normal but hiding a sense of tension and paranoia pervasive in crime (and guilt) ridden middle-class Brazil. The arrival of a new team of security men brings this menace to the surface. What exactly are they there to protect?

On the “to-watch” list!

Gaby Amarantos is the Beyonce of the Amazon

21 02 2013

Although judging from this track and her risque fashion sense, she could also be dubbed the Brazilian Rihanna. The curvaceous singer from Belem, on the banks of the Amazon, has been monickered a ‘Brazilian Beyonce’ for her love of off-the-shoulder black leotards. But her music is just as interesting as her fashion sense (and the kitschtastic cover of her new album).

Like all great port cities, Belem provides a rich stew of influences, not only Afro-Brazilian but also from around the Spanish-speaking countries of the Amazon rainforest basin. The result is techno-tinged merengue Amazonian pop like this:

And the winner is….

15 02 2013

Vila Isabel, whose agriculture-themed float clinched them the crown at the 2013 Rio Carnaval. Photos of this year’s festivities follow.

Korean Karnaval

12 02 2013

Carnaval has hit full swing in Rio this week  – see the images above from the Ipanema street parties courtesy of Junior, my Brazil informant ;)

The official competitions have started too in the Sambadromo with the second division teams marching on Friday. Inocentes de Belford Roxo, one of the local samba schools, chose as its theme “Celebrating 50 years of Korean immigration to Brazil” complete with K-Pop star Psy watching from the sidelines. The “Gangnam Style” singer had earlier performed to Carnaval crowds in Salvador with Bahiana singer Claudia Leitte.

Meanwhile back in the Rio first divisions, 2010 champions Unidos da Tijuca marched with a German theme, complete with one of their trademark magic tricks – in this case floating hammers of Thor.

The winners will be announced on Wednesday.

Carnival of cats

8 02 2013

This year’s Carnival in Brazil will be bittersweet in light of the country’s recent horrific nightclub fire. The inferno in the provincial city of Santa Maria, in Rio Grande do Sul,  killed more than 200. Some smaller Southern cities have discussed cancelling their celebrations in light of the tragedy, but Rio’s – of course – will go on.

The Guardian has this interesting video on a second-division samba team from the Rio favelas, who call themselves “The Cat of Bonsuccesso”, discussing the rich folklore of the Carnival and what it means to them.

Unfortunately I couldn’t embed the video but the link is here:

Rio’s Carnival hits its climax this coming weekend.

A fitting tribute

25 01 2013

Sao Paulo’s arresting multicoloured tribute to Oscar Niermeyer, the architect who passed away this year aged 101. He was responsible for one of the city’s landmarks, the hulking masterpiece or to some,dystopia, of the  Copan building. Famed for its massive bulk and sinuous curve, this skyscraper was built as an innovative mixed-income housing project, complete with luxury penthouses and cheap public flats (supposedly favoured by the city’s tranny hookers). It houses so many people it has its own postcode, and a local Buddhist group uses its summit for meditation (in place of the traditional mountain top).

Local street artist Kobra has produced this massive mural right in the heart of the city, on Avenida Paulista.


22 01 2013

True Blood, Game of Thrones, the Wire … and now Destino? HBO is not only the home of many of the best American TV series it is also home to (who knew?) a Brazilian wing. Destino is an HBO Brasil minseries dramatizing the waves of immigration that have built Sao Paulo, with episodes on the city’s African, Korean, Bolivian and Jewish communities (the last of which features avant garde fashion designer Alexandre Herchcovitch in his acting debut).

African episode:

Jewish episode:

Dirty Hearts: an alternate history

22 01 2013

Corações Sujos is a film about the fascinating but little-known story of Shindo Renmei, a Japanese terrorist organisation that killed 23 people in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state in the dying days of World War 2. Refusing to believe in the surrender of the Emperor, die-hard loyalists set out to attack those within the Japanese immigrant community they accused of defeatism and spreading Allied Propaganda.

The film is – according to a Brazilian friend – not actually very good, but I’m still grateful that it introduced me to such an interesting episode of history, one that has apparently long been a taboo conversation among the Brazilian-Japanese community, eager to show its degree of assimilation.

The film inspired me to check out another book on a similar topic, “A Discontented diaspora: Japanese Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militarism”. I’ve ordered it from Amazon but not yet read it fully – from the sample pages it seems an interesting and surprisingly readable discussion of the Japanese community in Brazil, considered either a goody-good ‘model minority’ or more interestingly to me, a dangerous hotbed of violence and sedition. Evidence of this is in newspaper clippings from the 1960s cited in the book of dangerous “Japanese-looking” criminals hounding Sao Paulo.

Sampa streets, freaks and monsters

22 01 2013

Works by Japanese-Brazilian street artist Titi Freak (above) and below, the warped monsters of Mexican-Brazilian, Fefe Talavera.

Sampa – Madrid

22 01 2013

Ex-members of Cansei Sur Sexy with their new (English-language) dark rock direction.

Gui Amabis: Brazilian soul

12 01 2013

Gui Amabis is a new discovery for me, and another indication of the recent health of MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira). His last album saw him teaming up with Criolo and Tulipa Ruiz, while his latest Trabalhos Carnivoros (Carnivorous work?) marries influences from Portishead to Kill Bill to Brazilan melodies and rhythms. As with so much great music out of Brazil lately, it is available free for download from the artist’s website here:

Trend of the year #2: Brazil is back …and the rise of two new Latin powers

17 12 2012

Brazil had a good year musically – there were strong returns to form from some of the country’s most established singers. These included a 49th album from the great Caetano Veloso (now seventy!) and a cameo by Marisa Monte at the London Olympics (with of course Rio’s on the way.) And not least was an astonishing new record by Gal Costa, updating her sound to the glitchy twenty-first century while sacrificing nothing of its soul.

At the same time newer artists continued to emerge and consolidate. Folky teen star Mallu Magalhaes unveiled a great new album (and vampy new look) while (former) rapper Criolo smashed with his amazingly diverse and soulful “No Na Orelha” – the most exciting Brazilian album, for me, in some time.

And there was also Lucas Santtana with this:

Meanwhile across the Atlantic an unexpected new power was rising. Angola was the year’s biggest surprise for me – the previously little-known Lusophone outpost in Africa snuck up on the world’s cultural radar, thanks largely to its homegrown electro-export kuduro, and continues to punch far above its weight. As its music begins to make an impact across Southern Africa, Brazil and Mediterranean Europe it is also becoming more diverse – from the rap of Titica (above) to the surprisingly lilting and lovely sounds of Aline Frazao, commercial R&B and wonderful reissues of the Afro-Latin sounds of the swinging Luanda 60s.

Chile was the other emerging hotspot.
Described in a recent travel supplement as “the nerdy one in Latin America” I had never considered the very small, and very ‘white’, country a musical force – not even when I was there. But this year I was proven wrong. The country’s small but perfectly formed pop industry pumped out everything from vogueing anthems, see Alexander Antwander in the post above, to MGMT-ish Astro, Bollywood and this track above, one of my favourites of the year.

Beleza Tropical

12 12 2012

An animated video for Jorge Ben’s Ponta de Lanca Africano (Umbabarauma).

Tropicalia is fucking great

5 12 2012

On the eve of the 49th album by Brazilian great Caetano Veloso, what better time to look back on the musical movement he spearheaded – tropicalia?

And this new documentary does just that – casting a loving glance over the heady years of the sixties-becoming-seventies in psychadelic samba-swinging Rio and Sao Paulo. Then, a wild-eyed bunch of musical misfits, fired by a love for surrealist poetry, bossa nova and the Beatles, aimed to turn Brazil on its head – and despite all odds, succeeded. They challenged the censorship of the military government, reconciled Brazil’s unmatched tradition of folk music with modern internationalism, and produced a raft of great tunes in the process.

The movie features larger than life characters like Gil Gilberto – who later became Brazil’s minister of culture under the recent Lula government, Gal Costa – still going strong and  author of one of 2012′s best albums, and the then-teen-rebels Os Mutantes (the Mutants) as well as, of course, Caetano.

The musical and cultural influence of this syncretic, freedom-loving bunch can still be seen in music today. “A Tribute to Caetano Veloso”, released recently, see American and Brazilan artists like Beck, Devendra Banhart and Seu Jorge covering the artist’s songs.

Which brings us back neatly to the new record. I’ve yet to hear ‘Um Abracaco’, but the few songs I have heard like the above, or opener “Bossa Nova is Fucking Great” show the great master is still going strong.


5 12 2012

Fashion Week Internationale – Redux!

2 12 2012

Another webisode of my favourite new TV show, Fashion Week Internationale. This episode the always-entertaining Charlet Dubec hits Rio.


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