If you’ve had your share of Bossa Nova, if you feel that you already know all the Tropicália big shots well, if you’re tired of samba, if you already listened all that matter from Clube da Esquina, or if funk ball is not your cup of tea, but you still want Brazilian sounds to rock your life, here are some picks of great musicians who deserve your attention.
Not famous outside of Brazil, from different genres and generations, these guys made my life happier many a time. Enjoy.
Secos e Molhados – They are a band from the 1970s, a mix of glam rock and prog, inevitably and proudly gay, in a time that being all those things could land you in jail or worse, dead in the hands of the extreme right vigilantes.
The band leader and singer, Ney Matogrosso, went to become a big star in a solo career, with a huge following of middle aged women. One of those Brazilian mysteries that is hard to explain: how a flaming gay singer becomes a hero in a openly homophobic environment? Now he makes (well) more traditional Brazilian music, and still has that incredible voice. Recommended album: Secos e Molhados (1973).
Luiz Melodia – Another classic not well known outside of Brazil. Carioca and black, he refused to make obvious samba and was difficult to classify. Influenced by American black music, his songs are soulful and rich. Recommended album: Pérola Negra (1973).
João Bosco – Some of the best popular Brazilian songs of the 1970s and 1980s were written by Bosco and his partner at the time, the lyricist Aldir Blanc. If you know or are learning Portuguese, Aldir Blanc’s lyrics are a hoot. Tragicomic is the word that comes to mind, and what a great storyteller.
And Bosco as a songwriter just uses to perfection the traditions of Brazilian song in sambas, bossa novas, chorinhos, modas, and makes something personal, with a singing style influenced by old masters of samba and jazz. Recommended album: Caça à Raposa (1975).
Itamar Assumpção – In the 1980s, I lived in a strict diet of punk, Brit rock and Vanguarda Paulista (translates as avant garde from São Paulo. Pretentious sounding? Well, cocaine started to be big in SP those days…)
From the bunch of really cool music from the period, I’d start with Itamar, an unconventional musician influenced equally by candomblé, samba, funk and reggae. Recommended album: Intercontinental!(1988).
Nação Zumbi – Last year Nação Zumbi celebrated the 15th anniversary of an album that changed the way a bunch of people regarded Brazilian music, me included. From that point on, we knew that the Brazilian music could be heavy as hell and still be roots as hell, like the a punch in the stomach that is “Da Lama ao Caos.”
Chico Science, singer, band leader and creator of the influential movement mangue beat died prematurely, but the band goes on (boy, do Brazilians like movements or not? Are we just not able to make something without writing a manifesto?). Recommended album: Da Lama ao Caos (1994).
Zeca Baleiro – Prolific songwriter in the genre of Brazilian folk, a veritable troubadour. Recommended album: Por Onde Andará Stephen Fry (2005).
Los Hermanos – They play what can be called indie samba, or pop MPB. It doesn’t seem complicated, but nobody else is able to pull off so many pleasant sounds as the songwriting duo Camelo/Medina. Skip the first album, then listen to them all. Recommended album: Bloco do Eu Sozinho (2001).
Bonsucesso Samba Clube – Bonsucesso Samba Clube is just one among the bunch of awesome acts from Pernambuco, like Banda Eddie, Mundo Livre S/A, Otto, and DJ Dolores, that suck all they can from the traditional sounds of maracatu, samba, frevo, and forró and come up with something refreshing and exciting. It’s a bit random to choose BSC among those guys, they are all so good. Recommended album: Bonsucesso Samba Clube (2003).
Romulo Fróes – Fróes loves old sambas, the ones exuding banzo (something like blues), sad songs of soft melancholy. But he’s no stranger to punk, softcore and guitars. Experimental and pop at once. Recommended album: Cão (2004).
CéU – Following the tradition of great female singers before her, like Gal Costa and Marisa Monte, CéU delves into the sounds of MPB and bossa, adding elements of electronica, jazz, and hip hop. A unique voice. Recommended album: CéU (2005).
Eloisa Aquino is a Brazilian living in Canada. She keeps her own blog on Brazilian culture at http://thegoodblood.blogspot.com/.