Short Takes Brazilian music releases in the US

Jorge da Silva

For many fans here in the US, the term next Brazilian wave has an intriguing,
almost romantic quality to it. After all, when Bossa’s incredible pop appeal
waned in the mid 60s, the quiet giant’s musical export went dark for many
years. The 80s saw a resurgence spurred by the rebirth of artists like
Astrud Gilberto and Sérgio Mendes. This decade provided
the same momentum carried on the back of important releases from Manhattan
Transfer
and David Byrne‘s collections to provide a pop context
for our music.

Jorge da Silva

For many fans here in the US, the term next Brazilian wave has an intriguing,
almost romantic quality to it. After all, when Bossa’s incredible pop appeal
waned in the mid 60s, the quiet giant’s musical export went dark for many
years. The 80s saw a resurgence spurred by the rebirth of artists like
Astrud Gilberto and Sérgio Mendes. This decade provided
the same momentum carried on the back of important releases from Manhattan
Transfer
and David Byrne‘s collections to provide a pop context
for our music.

But as we approach the new millennium, Brazilian music faces another
phase of this unending challenge: how to define this pop appeal for the
next generation. In this case, we’re talking about Generation X. X’ers
think differently, are driven by different value systems and are decidedly
undecided about their future. Come to think of it, this sounds a lot like
that rough edged group of renegade musicians who began bossa nova on the
beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana over 35 years ago.

Enter producer Beco Dranoff and The Redhot Organization. Long
known for their work with AIDS awareness and fundraising, Redhot concentrates
on musical recordings to reach out to the masses for support. And when
they set their minds to a new idea, the whole industry sits up to take
notice. Redhot + Rio is the latest release (Antilles) and in addition to
being a catchy spirited album, it also may be signaling the next big thing
from Brazil.

“What I always say is that Brazil is very lucky with its music,”
observed Danoff during a recent conversation. “Brazilian music is
one of the few international styles that has true penetration power. There’s
something about the music that is magical and easily related to all over
the world. For instance, you can’t say that about German music. Not everyone
remembers that bossa nova was a really big deal here in the 60s. I think
“The Girl from Ipanema” was on the Billboard charts for over
70 weeks, and the only thing that sidelined bossa nova was the Beatles
in 64 when the whole rock thing started. When the Beatles broke out, they
changed pop music… who wanted to listen to bossa anymore?

“But for three or four years in the 60s bossa was the rage, and
it’s never really gone away. The lucky part of bossa nova was that most
of the songs had English lyrics rewritten for them, so that helped to put
the music on the map in the US.”

Red Hot + Rio provides a new perspective for Brazilian music. By combining
world-class talent like Stereolab, Sting, David Byrne and
songwriter Crystal Waters with Brazilian stars including Caetano
Veloso
, Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento, producer
Beco Dranoff has found yet another synthesis for the Brazilian musical
form.

“Use Your Head” from Money Mark of The Beastie Boys
provides the perfect starting point. “Its a sort of retro thing,”
said Dranoff. “We figured out that old Hammond sound, and when I heard
it in the studio, I thought “This is the opening track, the appetizer.”
The record took approximately two years to complete. Because of the difficulty
in pulling together all of the talent on this record. The performers were
all super interested, but they all had their own careers, touring and schedules
to work around. So it was easy to get the “yes’s” from the everyone,
but getting them in the studio, that was the hard part. Because most of
the tracks are collaborations (just a few are solo tracks) it was a challenge
to get the right people together. Some were in Brazil, some in Paris, London
or Japan. Some were in Salvador. So to get all of the artist together with
the producers it took a year and a half and then a few more months to wait
for the George Michael track with Astrud Gilberto.

“They were in London together to record the track in late August
and it was the last track to come in,” Dranoff continued. “George
has done things for other Red Hot projects, and when we invited him to
do this one, he said, `I really want to, but right now I’m working on my
new album. So if you can hang in there I’d love to participate.’ We said,
`Of course we’ll wait,’ and I sent him many of the old classics to look
over. Of course, he knows Brazilian music very well, and when Older came
out and I saw that it was dedicated to the memory of Antônio Carlos
Jobim
I knew to expect a marvelous track from him.” George finally
decided on the duet with Astrud and the song was of course, “Desafinado,”
one of bossa’s true gems. And when we finally got the tape we were all
blown away by his Portuguese.”

But GenXer’s like to dance and Dranoff turned to Stereolab, Maxwell
and Everything But The Girl for that element of this groundbreaking album.
Crystal Dawn’s version of “The Boy from Ipanema” is being readied
for the dance floor with an eight minute club remix and “Corcovado”
receives such a radical makeover that it becomes almost new again. For
many of us long time fans, it takes some getting used to, but the nice
thing about perspective is that you can change it, right?

Dranoff thinks so. “When I spoke to Ben Watt from Everything But
The Girl, he said that he remembers his father listening to bossa when
he was a kid, and many of the musicians said they remember bossa in the
same way, from their parents. I think that Acid Jazz and Lounge music have
brought that nostalgic element back to a new generation world wide. In
England there are nightclubs devoted to this music and the new recording
groups all have that bossa element in their music. So, lately Brazilian
music has been coming back in a stronger pop sense than before. Of course,
some Brazilian purists may say that this is not Brazilian music, but for
me it is, because it carries that bossa spirit and the groove. It might
not be Jobim or João Gilberto but it is the groove, much
like Brazilians doing rock and roll. It’s still rock and roll but it’s
Brazilian.

“PM Dawn came up with the Flora & Airto concept. When
I contacted them originally, they said `we’re already working on some thing
with them’ and I said “Oh, great!” You must remember that this
bossa concept wasn’t anything I pushed on anybody, it was enthusiastically
accepted by all of the artists. For instance, the English group Stereolab
must have listened to a lot of bossa nova in their day, you catch in their
music all the time. The fact that they’re the band of the year in England
because of their long trance-like and hypnotic tracks, only underlines
this aspect.”

But the real purpose of Red Hot + Rio goes beyond these exciting new
hybrid sounds. World AIDS Day on December 1st will feature an international
broadcast of the Red Hot + Rio Concert via Bravo here in the US and MTV
world wide. And don’t forget to pick up NovaBossa, a companion CD to Red
Hot + Rio featuring 23 of the best Brazilian sounds. With Red Hot + Rio,
sometimes music is the message and sometimes it’s the messenger. You may
sample this album on The Brazilian Music Review Buyer’s Club Listener Line
by calling (847) 292-4545 24 hours a day. You’ll also receive a free subscription
to The Brazilian Music Review just for calling.

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