Beyond the 130 - Brazil

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Brother Spoon
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Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby Brother Spoon » 31 Jan 2015, 06:35

Before I start, I'd like to apologize to Portuguese speakers everywhere. I will mangle the language (diacritics a specialty)!

As you do, I've been listening to Brazilian records this last week, preparing for this thread, and I've got to tell you, it's weird listening to concentrated sunshine when it's snowing and freezing. Then again, Christmas in Brazil is at the height of summer... - and I know, I know, sorry for springing one of those clichés on you in the opening paragraph. 'Brazilian music sounds like sunshine.' But it does, it really does.

Brazil's an enormous country, and they take their music seriously, so where to start? Of course I started out thinking about some musical history and all that – but for once in my life, sod academicism. Truth is, I don't have a clue about the musical evolution, geographical scenes, socio-political meaning. Just some hunches and rumours, and I'd like to keep it that way. That's one of the things I appreciate about Brazilian records – in marked contrast to most US/UK-music. Even if I haven't heard an artist yet, I've read something. I know who came before them and after them. I usually have a pretty good grasp of what it will sound like before I hear it, even if I'm going to like it or not – I can predict with some accuracy. It's hard to get surprised. Now I know it's a quality that's not intrinsically musical, but not knowing much of anything about the Brazilian music scene guarantees I get surprised more often than not.

So, long story short, I'll focus on a couple of records I stumbled onto that surprised me, and some that altered that way I listen to music. The start is where it started for me, the first Brazilian record I heard.

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I still recall the exact circumstances. I was working at the world music/secondhand record store and in charge of in-store music. One day the owner told me world music was more than British folk music. So I put on the Buena Vista Social Club – sounds kinda old, right? Ali Farka Touré – too dusty. Then I picked up David Byrne's compilation of '70s Brazilian pop. I put it on, and hell, this is the first track.



I was sold in 15 seconds – the riff, the phasing, then the rhythm falls in and the bass. I didn't know what it was, but I knew this was a portal to somewhere I wanted to go. The track is just an amazing record – the call and response vocals, the authority of the singer. I could never take 'Sympathy for the devil' seriously again after this. When you've got time – I don't want to bother you with this the first couple of hundred times you're listening to this – check out how intricate the rhythm is. When the other instruments drop out – except for this high synth part echoing – an extra beat of handclaps drops in and it's just the best groove ever. At the end, Jorge goes into this spoken part and then breaks into an amazing scat. What a record!

There's much more on this compilation. Byrne selected a very specific perspective on Brazilian pop – kinda stripped back, lots of acoustic guitars, groovy but melodic, kinda folksy. To me, that's been the heartland ever since, even though it's not an accurate picture, but it is how it is. Another one that knocked me out is 'Equatorial' by Lô Borges, the best son-of-'Let it be' ballad I know, but I'll write more about Lô below. I'll add the great one-two punch that closes the comp: Milton Nascimento's 'Anima' and Caetano Veloso's 'Terra' (I see what you did there, David).



I know it's kind of a mystical description, but I can only say that 'Anima' always sounded to me like the spirit on the water. The sound of tuned percussion – I mean, the main riff is beautiful enough, there's a solo part that takes me straight to heaven. The song is build up out of these rhythmic/melodic cells which move ever sideways. I can't fully describe it in words.



And that's followed by 'Terra', which is as near as anyone's ever gotten to Dylan's 'Gates of Eden' in my book. With the sitar from 'Norwegian wood'. And I don't even understand a word he sings (a couple but still...). It just transports me.

***

I knew this music was for me, so I was looking for more and I swiftly ended up on the (back then) fashionable Tropicalia end of the spectrum. Even though many of the same artists appear on this next record (Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé, Gal Costa), it's five years earlier (1968) and it's a different sound world. A carnivalesk psychedelia in thrall to Sgt Pepper's. Much of this was down to Rogerio Duprat, musical conductor on all of these artists' records of the time and also the instigator of this era-defining manifesto record:

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The Sgt Pepper's influence crept in down to the artwork, as you can see. This is music that never settles down, but jumps from section to section, from rhythm to rhythm, backing band to orchestra to musique concrète at the drop of a hat. And still damn groovy!

'

Love the long intro on this one! One of the sexiest duets ever, even if they are actually singing about butter and gasoline.



Caetano is often called the Bob Dylan of Brazil, and Gilberto Gil its Bob Marley, so it's kind of surprising they teamed up to write the Brazilian 'Louie, Louie'. A gloriously dumb, sharp as a needle, all atittude anthem. This is kinda like Richard Berry's version of 'Louie, Louie'. It needed that little Kingsmen-like something extra.

***

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There! That's exactly it! Chaos. Energy. Groove. Chanting. General weirdness. It's got it all.

I don't want to give away too much in case you plan on listening to it, but that goes for the record too. To me, it's wall to wall insane classics. From Gilberto Gil's 'Panis et circenses' which opens the album (the same performance appeared on Tropicalia) to the fuzzified version of 'Baby' and some French pastoralism and a Mamas & Papas cover in between. It's madness.



Tucked away on side B. I'm pulling it out, cause it exemplifies the frenzied, hopped-up-on-possibilities mood and I've always liked this ons especially. It's the singsong melody.

Arguably, Os Mutantes never bettered the debut, but the following records are worthwhile. Most fans cut out after the third album, I've noticed, but in fact, the 4th, Jardim Eletrico, is my second favourite.

***

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One more from the Rogerio Duprat school of the initial Tropicalia wave. Gilberto Gil is a natural fit for this three ring circus. He weaves some pretty out there song constructions and orchestral arrangements together with his enthusiastic singing (I do wonder if he ever breathes). It's a tropical feast of a record – if most records are a couple of apples, a pear and usually some lemons, this one has pineapples, berries, watermelons, figs, lychees and maybe a monkey with a cymbal.



This one's representative. Wild and sweet.



But my highlight is this one. Just a crazy threechord romp with Gilberto firing on a raft of backing singers. They're hanging on for dear life. That's one amazing guitar solo too. Fine, it trails off a bit at the end, but who can keep this up for long?

***

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Caetano Veloso had some great Tropicialia-era records, but the ones I keep returning to are the two early '70s records, he recorded while in exile in the UK. Loose limbed, stripped back, improvisatory folk rock. These are long, long songs, stretched out and I can listen to them playing forever. I appreciate the space – there's just one or two percussionists (could be one guy, but he'd be damn good), a wonderfully busy stand-up bass player, Caetano playing acoustic in the background, sometimes a lead guitarist and Caetano singing. There's a sad edge to it – he sings about homesickness, about the family he left behind, but it's also loose and free, he's lost in the moment. You can hear him fly back home inside his mind. Until the music fades out. Maybe that's why they play'em so long.




***

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Tom Zé – the cubist of Brazilian pop. You know those Picasso portraits that show all the angles of someone's head at the same time? That's what Tom Zé does. You get all the elements that make up a pop song, but they're put together in the damnedest way. Tom was around during the Tropicalia heyday – his song 'Parque industrial' is covered on the Tropicalia album – but I can't get into his records from that time. His mid-'70s period on the other hand! This 1975 album Estudando do samba for instance (well, I haven't heard that much more). Though he sings about sadness a great deal, this is an uplifting record. Just the tracklisting makes me laugh. Has anyone ever had a tracklist like this?

1. "Mã"
2. "A Felicidade"
3. "Toc"
4. "Tô"
5. "Vai
6. "Ui!
1. "Doi"
2. "Mãe
3. "Hein?"
4. "Só
5. "Se"
6. "Índice"


Two examples of his unique sound – some of the more straightforward pop stuff to be honest, but there's always something a little off. See if you can spot it.





***

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Chico Buarque' another one of those big names. I've heard a couple albums, but the one I always come back to is the great Construçoa (1974). More traditional, maybe. It doesn't sound like Chico went through the same rebellious phase the others did. He comes straight from the bossa nova masters (that's how it feels to me anyway – I'm making half of this up, remember). But for songs as massive as opening track 'Deus lhe paque'



Dark and ominous, exciting, all those dissonant chords and piano bass notes creeping up on you. Sounds like tympanis pounding.



Or the epic, orchestral title track, which sounds like three different spy movie themes before it ends (at least). Dramatic and wonderful. It just picks you up and sweeps you along.
In my mind he is the great, somewhat sinister crooner of Brazil.

***

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Edu Lobo got his break in 1971 with the fun Sergio Mendes presents Edu Lobo LP – for years my go-to Edu album. It's filled with jazz tinged earwurms, lots of hooks and catchy rhythms and basslines. So catchy that sometimes they lyrics are just scatted accompaniment to the melodies, you don't need more. A while ago I came across his Missa Breve album, which has now overtaken the other record. It's still jazz tinged, catchy (but slightly less so). Edu's going for something a little deeper here. Side B is an imagination of the Latin Catholic mass – you see what I mean. That side is like a suite, sections segueing into one another. But he pulls it off. It's evocative music. I can see images accompanying the music. Not images of sitting in catholic mass either, which is a plus. Nature, flying, mountains... (you know, all the clichés that signify freedom).



'Vento bravo' from the songbased side A.

***

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All through this time the standard length for Brazilian records was very much set at half an hour, 35 minutes tops. So when this 21-track, 65 minute mammoth appeared it had tremendous impact. In a way it's the White album-successor to Tropicialia's Sgt Pepper's. Another multi-artist gathering. Milton Nascimento had achieved a fair level of success with his angelic singing and he used this as leverage to record this greeting card for his homeregion of Minas Gerais. The record broke the musical monopoly of the two big cities (Rio and San Paulo) and introduced a new regional music scene. Musically it cleers the board of the elaborate orchestrations and studio experiments of Tropicalia for a more rootsy, 'organic' (ugh) sound – you know what I mean, sounds like these musicians actually hung out together before recording. Except – and you kow this is a big exception – no Brazilian record could ever sound brown. For me, the biggest draw of the record is that Milton involved a roster of friends/musicians, but most of all Lô Borges, who I believe makes his debut here. If the cover picture is to be believed, Milton and Lô were childhood friends. Milton achieved success, but could never quite shake off the memory of the mercurial talet he had met – so he gave him a friendly push (yep, still making most of this up). Even though Lô is very much a junior partner on the record, his contributions stand out a mile away (and all of it is good, so that's something). This is one of my favorite records (like, ever, I guess).



Can't say why – the clippety cloppety rhyhtm – like Don Quichote galloping on his mule -, the spacious arrangement, but mostly the melody. He makes you wait for the chorus, but when it comes...

There's a lot to this album: 15-second fragments, multi-part epics, instrumentals, covers, returning melodies, different singers, different backing bands. I've listened to it for more than 10 years now, it seems bottomless.
Here's a great Milton piano ballad. Wait for the glorious piano & strings-section at the end!



***

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A little later that same year, Lô released his self-titled debut solo album. Push come to shove, I think it's the best Brazilian album I've ever heard. It's never very far from my record player. Everything I liked about his work on Clube Da Esquinha is here, even more so. 15 songs in half an hour – this is intricate stuff. It blends together in a patchwork masterpiece of concentrated compositions, fragments (but always perfectly realized) and a couple of freewheeling improvisations. You have to keep on your toes, there's always something happening.



Listen to this 1'50” song. A very short piano verse, followed by this loping percussion driven flute workout, repeat at 0'27”. A 0'42” a whole new section – wonderful acoustic guitar descending riff. Back into the verse at 1'03” followed by 20 seconds of extemporization. And that's it.



Or 2 minute ballad 'Homem da rua'. A moody verse goes into a lovely chorus, at 0'35” a new riff bursts in with more singing, it breaks down, at 1'05” back into the verse and chorus. The last half minute is repeat and fade.

***



In Brazil it's considered bad luck to turn down an artistic collaboration. Here you have a song called 'Tudo que você podia ser' which Lô Borges wrote for Milton Nascimento to sing on Clube Da Esquinha. That same year it's taken up by Quarteto Em Cy, former backing singers for Chico Buarque amongst others. Their version is produced and arranged by Edu Lobo. Confused yet? All you need to do is listen to those unique close harmonies. That should do it. Quarteto em cy is a quartet of 4 female singers whose names begin with Cy (it's true, I swear). Ain't that something?

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It's on this self-titled 1972 album, which is a groovy, easy-on-the-ears collection of melodic, kinda folky covers, all sung to perfection by the quartet, who sound like they're born to sing together.



***

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Ah, Marcos Valle... I was going to write a full feature just on him, until convinced to do this Brazilian cross section instead. So I'll restrict myself to the absolute peak (to me). Previsao Do Tempo (also 1972, busy year in Brazil). But he was well on the way to this supremely funky, relaxed, masterful record with the preceding Garra and Vento Sul. Garra was the pop masterpiece – if it didn't sprout 7 hit singles it surely deserved to. Vento Sul's the one where he went all weird, teaming up with an obscure progressive backing band (keep in mind Brazilian progressive is a tiny bit more groovy than other varieties) – to great effect. By Previsao Do Tempo I imagine Marcos and his band endlessly leisuring by the pool, all bronze tan, big sunglasses, maybe some badminton. As the sun sets, they hit an easy confident groove and let this stuff happen. That kinda decadent scene, they own the world already, what's to prove?, just indulge.



How undeniable is 'Mentira'? Listen to the breakdown and extended fade out, up there with prime Stevie Wonder.
The sound of the record is percussion, deep bass, electric piano, lots of Moog (I think). Here's another one:



And alright, a third one, just cause after Lô Borges this is surely my second favorite Brazilian record:



I want to tell you cause I mean well: get it in your life.

***

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I haven't said anything about bossa nova yet, while it's crucial to Brazilian music. But I'm no expert. I guess it's a little before my timeframe. This one though is right in there, and I want to mention it especially. Antonio Carlos Jobim, who is pretty much the godfather, writes, arranges and occasionaly duets on a beautiful album with Elis Regina. I don't know all of Elis' records, but it seems like she's an amazing singer who never quite got the context right. Until this one.



Everyone loves 'Aguas de março'. It's the opening duet and it can't help but be the highlight. It would be most anywhere. The rest of the album is not just added padding though. It's mostly very still and sad. The songs are not the overfamiliar canon of Jobim classics any visiting jazz musician or Sinatra gets offered (well, 'Corcovado' and 'Triste' are here, but in deserving versions). You feel Jobim is happy enough to flex his muscles on a singer and audience who don't just want the tourist route. It's deep, adult stuff.



***

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OK – some jazz. Even though this was recorded at Van Gelder studios, tell me this doesn't take you straight to the heart of the rainforest...



***

Well, that's it for now. I'll leave you with a more contemporary record (only 15 years old, folks) which I turned onto during my long project listening to records from the year 2000.

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The music is by Philip Glass, inspired by the Brazilian natural world and its rivers. It's played by Brazilian percussion ensemble Uakti, who hit an assortment of (often selfmade) tuned percussion instruments. Makes me feel peaceful after a hard day's night.

Last edited by Brother Spoon on 31 Jan 2015, 16:14, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby Neige » 31 Jan 2015, 11:02

*applause*

Great work, Pieter - and thanks for including the wonderful Terra!
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 31 Jan 2015, 15:31

My Sunday afternoon is sorted. Fantastic work - I will delve!
But somehow when you smile, I can brave bad weather.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby Zilth Pilchards » 31 Jan 2015, 16:52

Well done for selecting Veloso's Transa.This is one of the better things I discovered last year.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby Your Friendly Neighbourhood Postman » 31 Jan 2015, 16:59

Superb opening post (well, essay is a better word)!

Many thanks, and it brings food + energy for starting a delving operation pronto.
On the whole, I'd rather be in Wallenpaupack.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby zoomboogity » 31 Jan 2015, 18:17

One more from Elis & Tom

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"Quite."

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby T. Willy Rye » 31 Jan 2015, 18:51

Great post! I hate to be nitpicky, but I would love to hear more about your take on Jorge Ben. I feel like somehow he's had a profound effect on my life, like my wife would call me a more soulful lover or that my touch now brings life to lands that before only contained death, but no one else seems to notice this transformation that I was sure Jorge Ben had on me.




I'm hoping that perhaps you might also mention this bunch:



Anyway, I love this thread and your insights are most welcome!

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby echolalia » 31 Jan 2015, 18:53

Really excellent stuff.

Another shout from me for Terra. When my wife and I were courting we used to play that album over and over. I'm going to click on the link right now and she's going to go, Ahhhhhhh. (Hopefully.)

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby Brother Spoon » 31 Jan 2015, 20:27

Thanks, T. Willy (and everyone).

T. Willy Rye wrote:
I'm hoping that perhaps you might also mention this bunch:





My insights tell me this sounds very good indeed, but I've never heard it before.
(Told ya I don't really know my ass from my Brazilian elbow. :) )
I will look into this.

Btw, did I ever tell you about one of my regrets in life? When I was 16, I spent a month in Rio in an exchange program. It was a good time and a valuable experience. But I didn't know I loved the music, so I never made it down to the local recordstore to pick up all the Brazilian records I could find. I kick myself about that once in a while.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby The Modernist » 31 Jan 2015, 20:47

An epic undertaking Peiter -well done. I'll return to various artists in your thread in the next few days, but with regard to Brazilian jazz and funk then we really must mention Deodato. His 70s work is essential.



Btw Does anyone feel qualified to do Tim Maia - I love him, but only have two albums so would struggle to do a guide?

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby T. Willy Rye » 31 Jan 2015, 21:33

I couldn't come close to doing Tim Maia justice. I'm also wondering if anyone could do Elis Regina. That discography is pretty daunting.

Here's a little taster:



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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby fange » 01 Feb 2015, 01:50

Thanks, Bro Spoon, so much music here i already love and a lot more i've got to dig into!

Keep it up, everyone.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby zoomboogity » 01 Feb 2015, 03:47

I don't know where Sergio Mendes rates among Brazilian music purists, but he certainly was a major factor in bringing bossa nova to the US in the 1960s, and he has managed to maintain his career to the present day, which is no small feat in any genre. His A&M albums with Brasil '66 and Brasil '77 all had a few clunkers, but much of it is just so full of joy that it's cool enough for me. He brought exposure (and considerable royalties) to some of the songwriters already mentioned in this thread, a few more examples of which appear below. Plus, he had the great Lani Hall for a singer, who joined the group as a teenager from Chicago who spoke not a word of Portuguese and learned the lyrics phonetically (and she still sings like a dream fifty years later!). If I could go back in time and be in any '60s band, one of my prime choices would be Brasil '66's percussionist. What a gig that guy had - dance around on stage, play a little tambourine and shaker, and just generally look suave - nice work if you can get it! (Drummer Joao Palma later appeared on Jobim's classic 1970 album Stone Flower.)

Mas Que Nada (Jorge Ben)



For Me (Arrastão) (Edu Lobo)



Dois Dias (Dorival Caymmi, Nelson Motta) - I still have no idea what the lyrics mean, but this is one of the most hopeful songs I've ever heard



Roda (Gilberto Gil) - wrong album cover, but what the heck



Batucada (Marcos & Paulo Valle)



Upa, Neguinho (Brasil '77 live at The Greek Theatre 1973) (Edu Lobo)



Lani Hall - Corrida De Jangada (Edu Lobo)


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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby echolalia » 01 Feb 2015, 15:55

BCB Cup Winner 2011 wrote:Btw Does anyone feel qualified to do Tim Maia - I love him, but only have two albums so would struggle to do a guide?

I could do Tim Maia - I'd need a week or two, though.

With Elis Regina I'd be completely out of my depth.

Anyone familiar with Wilson Simonal?

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby zoomboogity » 01 Feb 2015, 20:05

two from Nelson Angelo & Joyce (1972)

Vivo Ou Morto



Linda


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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby Brother Spoon » 07 Feb 2015, 06:21

There's got to be more in this...
Maybe if we call it Brazilian sunshine piss pissing over BCBers pissing over Yakety Yak

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby limo_cunningham » 17 Feb 2015, 15:02

I recently watched this BBC documentary on Tropicalia, some great stuff & footage I've never seen before. Interviews with Jorge Ben , Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil & Os Mutantes too.




Also on a more "modern" trip, I listened to a lot of +3s the last year or so, each member did an album as band leader between 2000 and 2006. One of the members is Moreno Veloso, son of Caetano, but the record fronted by Domenico is my favourite.




Lucas Santtana popped up in a few of the places I read last year too, his records are quite modern sounding production-wise, but here's a nice clip of him playing on a rooftop in São Paulo. I need to listen to him more to be honest.




At the other end of the timescale, I was obsessed with this Luiz Gonzaga song for a while. Anyone know any more of his stuff worth investigating? I had a listen around but found mostly horrible 90s-era recordings. Still, this is incredible:


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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby limo_cunningham » 17 Feb 2015, 15:05

^^^ weird, some of my text seems to go missing in that last post. Re: the last track -

At the other end of the timescale, I was obsessed with this Luiz Gonzaga song for a while. Anyone know any more of his stuff worth investigating? I had a listen around but found mostly horrible 90s-era recordings. Still, this is incredible:


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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby limo_cunningham » 17 Feb 2015, 15:41



Just remembered that I found quite a lot of new Brazilian music watching the youtube channel La Blogotheque. They travelled to Brazil for the world cup & filmed a lot of Brazilian musicans playing outwith the concert hall. This one is beautiful, the lightning in the background is incredible too.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Brazil

Postby limo_cunningham » 19 Feb 2015, 13:38

I'm still working my way through the opening post by the way, great stuff! Never heard "Terra" before, only have the albums up to Transa, so I'll have to get on that asap.