Psychogeography #6: Marcelo Monteiro’s Brazil
Brazil – home of Carnival, home of rhythm, home of being able to shake your hips like you'd never believe. The country has been providing the world with positive aural vibes for generations yet it never seems to be on our personal lists of where we look to for new music. Thankfully the folks over at Amplificador have put together a selection of 120 tracks that are taken straight from the current Brazilian underground with a strong thread of Afrobeat throughout. They've also got this lovely compilation, Amplificador Novissima Musica Brasileira, which we whole-heartedly endorse! We love this compialtion so much that we thought it was time our ears took a roadtrip to Brazil. Who better to enlighten us open this part of the musical world than Marcelo Monterio – the man who put the compilation together. Tune yourself in and sit yourself down, it's time to go Brazilian;
What's your musical background? Where did you start out and what are you doing now?
I'm 42, journalist and editor of Globo.com in Rio, news-sport-entertainment portal based on the content of Globo, the biggest media company in Brazil. I grow up in the '80s listening to all new rock bands from the called BR-Rock. It was the end of dictatorship in Brazil and music played an important role in all this change of government and new ideas. The best groups like Paralamas, Titãs, Barão Vermelho are still active with thousands of fans, still very popular. Some played in the first Rock in Rio and came back again this year to the 30 year tribute. So, BR-Rock, the Brazilian classics like Chico Buarque, Caetano, Gil, Jorge Benjor, samba, then reggae, electronic, Mangue Beat, and of course all international pop music are part of anyone music life in Brazil exposed to the mainstream. We had zines, small labels, and almost nothing more to promote independent groups and new discoveries in media.
Albums were very expensive and it was impossible to think music as today with all the variety and options in digital formats. Thats the market turning point, the end of the 90s, where the music become free with the mp3. Then I started digging and doing a very deep music research, for pleasure as I was working with sports and news. I got very much inside jazz, blues, funky and lots of Africa. Then after all the digging I decided to share the discoveries and suggestions in a blog, oblogblack. Only classics and discoveries inspired in this concept of afro-groove-funky-jazz-blues-black-music, bands like Budos Band, Antibalas, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Akalé Wube, Blundetto, Whitefield Brothers; west africans Poly Rythmo, Tony Allen and Ebo Taylor, lots of jazz and blues, Lee Morgan, Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Muddy Waters, JJ Cale, Clapton, and the 5 tops: Miles Davis, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, James Brown and Hendrix. The blog is still online even after the death of Grooveshark where I had the playlists; I decide to leave it as an archive with videos, lots of informations, great albums and new sounds.
I've written for Amplificador since 2012 with four other journalists from O Globo completely focused in new Brazilian sounds from all over the country with albums, videos, reviews, playlists and lots of great new bands. I quite like the name Amplificador which summarize the blog main objective: present and amplify new music and independent artists to a bigger audience. Today Amplificador have already four years on road, very respected with bands and audience.
How has the music of Brazil changed across your lifetime? Why do you think there has been such a change and do you think the music has ever implemented social/cultural changes in the country?
The BR-Rock from the '80s contributed to a historic change in the market and put lots of new bands competing together with big stars from Europe and US specially. The difference from the first Rock in Rio in the 80s and the 2015 edition this last weekend is massive. The Brazilian bands, singer, artists and festivals are huge. Since the 90s the web revolution gave a new background for bands to research, produce and promote easily and widely. What we have today is the mainstream with qualities but almost no revolutions and a big big independent market producing a lot mostly in web with different scenes in each capital. Rio bands are a bit different from SP that are different from Recife, Salvador, Natal, the rock city Goiânia; all influenced for the cultural backgroung. That is Brazil secret for everything, from people till culture and sports, mixture! Then you asked for the social/cultural changes that music had done, difficult to say, music always plays that role to make people reflect politics, social questions, thats is always very strong. And we had that a lot in the 60s with Chico Buarque, Milton, Caetano and Gilberto Gil generation, in BR-Rock of the 80s with Legião, Titãs, Barão Vermelho, Paralamas, in the 90s with Rappa, Raimundos, Planet Hemp, and of course now. Some are more focused on that, the hip-hop lyrics for example, artists like Emicida, Racionais, and also in rock, always! But we do have also a new instrumental scene. Its difficult to have music as a factor of society change, but for sure music is always there very strong.
What do you think the biggest differences are between being a journalist in Brazil and in the UK?
I think the changes and challenges with the new media tools are common for journalism and media companys all over the world. Of course there are very strong cultural differences between the coverage, text style, language and formats in TV, radio, newspapers, magazines in Brazil and UK. But we do have to remember we are dealing with everyday facts, thats the big difference, I´m certain all the everyday british routine for a journalist is radically different. Including all the economic, political and city specifications.
How did you go about compiling the mixtape? Did you have a certain aural journey planned or did it all come together one track at a time?
Our work in Amplificador in O Globo is to filter and present all the best releases we discover in web, social media and doing a lot of research and listening. Our goal from the beggining is to make this new sounds circulates to a wide range of people possible. Its funny today that we sometimes hear that Brazilian music are not revealing new names, that good music are in the the '80s, '90s, the classics. And also a lot of criticism about the more pop music like axé, funk and sertanejo. Thats the opinion of people that listens music on TV or radio. We have almost two different music worlds in mass media and internet/festivals. The new music market is made of niches and for sure independent bands are in a incredible prolific moment. Our challenge in Amplificador is to present and hopefuly open more minds and reach new audiences.
After four years of listening to all these new great bands at Amplificador we decided to make the comp. Thanks to my blog with African music I knew lots of European labels launching compilations with African/world music like Soundway, Analog Africa, Bhuda Music, and I decided to reach them and present the project. I knew from the start we could have a good chance with Far Out because of their background with Brazilian classics like Azymuth, Naná Vasconcellos, Joyce, and also new music with DJ Tudo, a Bass comp and more. And the reception was great, we did first a huge listen with 50 bands for Far Out. The first groups cut were the ones that had international contracts (Mais Um Discos also from London has a great casting with lots of new bands like Graveola, Bixiga, Lucas Santtana).
Then Far Out decided for a more slow-African-groove, some instrumental bands like Iconili, Burro Morto, André Sampaio, Zebrabeat were our first choices. We still have some great rock bands with Baggios, Luziluzia representing very strong scenes from Northeast and Goiânia. All those bands are part of the '10s generation, most are on their first album after crowded gigs and big audiences online. Its a very special moment in Brazilian music and also for the global music industry with all the new web tools, streaming, Soundcloud, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, also the growth of EPs, vinyl, new festivals… A real pleasure for us to listen to.
Who are the current Brazilian music-makers we should be keeping an ear out for?
Rio and SP have dozens of great band and lots of new (20-30 years old) talented musicians. But the good news is that production now is massive all around Brazil and bands can survive without the labels, producing and promoting their music with all the new web tools. Which is definitely great for us journalists, researchers and producers! I considerer the most fervilliant scene today in the whole contry is in Rio Grande do Norte (in the Northeast, our 'Nordeste', beaches paradise, Natal is the capital of this estate, there is also Pernambuco and Bahia very strong) and Goiás (specially the rock city of Goiânia, Central part of Brazil, near the country capital, Brasília).
From Natal, pay deeply attention to Far From Alaska, Camarones orquestra Guitarrística, Kung Fu Johnny, Mahmed, Fukai; from Goiás there is the psych-groove Boogarins, Luziluzia and Carne Doce; also Metá Metá, Passo Torto, Bixiga 70, Thiago Pethit from SP; in Rio, Supercordas, Abayomy, Fino Coletivo, Ava Rocha; in Paraíba there is Burro Morto, Pernambuco with Joseph Tourton, Jam da Silva and Zulumbi; most bands have in maximum 5 years on road, in their first or second album. Musicians with 20 to 35 year-old. Boogarins and Far From Alaska (for me top 4 among all new bands along with Metá Metá, Bixiga 70 and Boogarins) has just launched their first official album after EPs (another conquer from this 00s genneration), packed gigs and big impact in web. I could list 20-30-40-50 new good bands (I prepared an Amplficador ‘top 40’ below), I dont know how many of then will last till their 5th album, the market is still very very difficult, but I see new ways to survive in music industry doing gigs all year and, better, creating albums without the obligation to be mainstream. And this is where the promoting and filtering work of journalists, blogs and some TV and radio programs have their decisive importance.
What's the musical vibe in Brazil in 2015? How big a part does music play in the everyday life of an average Brazilian?
We have music for all tastes from all over Brazil. There is a strong psych-rock scene, the afrobeat bands, rock always, mpb-samba variations. I think music today for this streaming generation is strong over the world, people listen to music all time, vinyl is big again, the festivals, a real paradise for music lovers and diggers.
My feeling is that every day there is a new album, EP, video, crowdfunding. The musicians have to work really hard in creating, producing, promoting, but there are also new chances to reach new people which are definitely tired of radio and TV pop choices. People wants new bands, and more, they want to see then in the stage, consume videos, docs, digital albums… Its a big big market, technology makes the bridge between this incredible big number of new bands and the audience now much more free to decide. Thats what we are trying to do in Amplificador.
Why do you love music so much? What keeps you following it so avidly?
I am curious, love to discover new sounds, old treasures and above all its a great pleasure to show people good new bands. My personal 'mantra' is: good music has to circulate and reach as many people as possible. There is a whole new generation that wants to listen to new bands, new sounds and we try to connect bands with bands, producers, fans and the mainstream audience.
Now we are trying to expand the blog profile and also try new actions, our dream is to produce an Amplificador Festival with bands from the whole country. The compilation is the first step. Far Out did a great job, a brilliant design work, a must have vinyl, 17 bands from 9 different states in the CD version with a rich scenario of new Brazilian music. After the comp we started negotiating a partnership with a program in FM radio and now a digital label only with new bands in a big record company (one of the ‘big four’!). It will be great putting together independent bands and a big record company. I think it could be an important movement in market to make new bands bigger. The idea is to launch this project in the next two months.
How long do you think it will take for people over here in the UK to wise up to the talents of the latest wave of Brazilian musicians?
Difficult to say. Some new independent bands, already big, with massive audiences like Bixiga 70, Luccas Santana, Céu, Tulipa, the ‘top of the indies’ are already touring a lot. Beginning in the next month we will start a new project, inAmplificador, trying to reinforce the bridge with Europe for the other bands that are very strong in a specific niche but stil starting to see the market abroad as a opportunity. I will live in France in 2016 with family (my wife got a post-doctorate scholarship and I asked for a licence in Globo.com) and that will be my work there. In fact, if any producer or European festival are interested in the new Brazilian bands please contact us! If the idea is to open new markets for this great bands, why not go abroad.
What have you got planned for the rest of 2015?
The Amplificador Far Out Festival in Brazil or abroad are the big plan for the 2015/2016 together with the digital label. Lets see. I already have a partnership in Paris with B-Mundo Label and this is the plan – to promote new Brazilian music abroad, to expand the role of Amplificador to albums and gigs.
Amplificador – Novíssima Música Brasileira Top 40 (+social media ranking)
Abayomy (Rio, Facebook 10,1 thousand fans, Afrobeat)
Alice Caymmi (Rio, FB 17,2t, new MPB)
Anelis Assumpção (SP, FB 18,9t, dub-reggae-Afrobeat-samba-bossa-new MPB)
Ava Rocha (Rio, FB 5,5t, new-MPB)
Apanhador Só (RS, FB 134,6t, rock-MPB)
Bayana System (Bahia, FB 24,7t, afro-grooves)
Bixiga 70 (SP, FB 49,3t, afro-instrumental-grooves)
BNegão (Rio, FB 15t, rap-afro-grooves)
Boogarins (Goiânia, FB 32,6t; psychedelic-rock)
Camarones (Natal, FB 5,7t, fun-instrumental-rock)
Carne Doce (Goiânia, FB 5,5t, psych-rock-modern tropicalia)
Emicida (SP, FB 3,3million, rap)
Far From Alaska (Natal, FB 38t, rock!)
Fino Coletivo (Rio, FB 22,9t, samba-rock-MPB-“jorge-beniana”)
Felipe Cordeiro (Pará, FB 13,3t, guitarrada-kitsch-pop-cult)
Fukai (Natal, FB 1,9t, rock)
Graveola e o Lixo Polifônico (Minas Gerais, FB 33,4t, indie-experimental-clube da esquina-playful-barrocobeat)
Iconili (Minas Gerais, FB 6,1t, tropical-psychedelic-Afro-jazz)
Ive Seixas (Rio, Volta Redonda, FB 2,6t, new MPB-samba)
Jam da Silva (Pernambuco, FB 2,5t, transworld-rap-grooves)
Juçara Marçal (SP, FB 11,8t, intense-poetic-radical-samba-new-MPB)
Letucce (RJ, FB 10,8t, new-MPB)
Lucas Santtana (SP, FB 38,6t, indie-new MPB-rock)
Luziluzia (Goiânia, FB 1,6t, psych-rock-modern-tropicalia)
Macaco Bong (Cuiabá-SP, FB 17,9t, instrumental rock)
Maglore (Bahia, FB 42,9t, indie-MPB-rock)
Metá Metá (SP, FB 21,4t, polyphony-rock-afrobeat-batuque-grooves)
Mohandas (RJ, FB 10t, transworld- grooves)
Muddy Brothers (Espírito Santo, FB 3,2t, rock-blues)
Nação Zumbi (Pernambuco, FB 363,6t, rock-maracatu-groove)
OQuadro (Bahia, FB 7,4t, rap-grooves)
O Terno (SP, FB 53,2t, new-rock)
Passo Torto (SP, FB 7,9t, crooked samba)
Quarto Negro (SP, FB 10,3t, psych)
RussoPassapusso (Bahia, FB 16,2t, Afro-grooves)
Siba (Pernambuco, FB 64,9t, rock-groove-“baque solto”)
Tagore (Pernambuco, FB 8,7t), psychedelic-sertão-rock)
The Baggios (Sergipe, FB 10,7t, blues-rock)
Thiago Pethit (SP, FB 110,3t, Belim30s-NY70s-rock-‘sugar-darling’)
Zebrabeat (Pará, FB 1,7t, guitarrada-carimbó-Afrobeat)
Zulumbi (Pernambuco, FB 2,8t, afro-grooves-batuque-hip-hop)