Can there be many more musical countries than Brazil? You don’t have to wait for carnival to see dancing in the streets of Rio, and anyone who’s ever witnessed that utter carnage that rolls into town along with the Rock in Rio can’t deny the passion oozing from the musical core of this city. It’s not all about Rio, of course: Brazil’s stylish musicians can be found in almost every corner of this vast country (including, we’re told, the depths of the Amazon), which made it quite a task for Music+Travel guide James Hendicott to narrow things down to just these six:
International Metal Mainstays: Sepultura
With a name that translate as either ‘tomb’ or ‘grave’ perhaps it’s the biggest shock that this group of hardcore metalheads are a tad aggressive in their musical output. They’ve certainly made an impact internationally, with an estimated 15 million album sales worldwide to date, and still sing, strum and headbang with all the initial aggression that made them famous when they came out of Belo Horizonte in the ’80s.
The Tropicália Troubadours: Os Mutantes
Since the 1960s, Os Mutantes have been at the forefront of Brazil’s psychedelic Tropicália scene. The lineup has been a bit of a revolving door, but in 2009 the band released its first album and tour in 35 years, ‘Haih Or Amortecedor‘. Need more proof of their staying power? Indie darlings of Montreal consider ‘The Mutants’ one of their biggest influences.
Rio’s Own Samba King: Zeca Pagodinho
Born and rasied in Rio, Zeca started writing music while he was still a young child, and soon found himself at the heart of the city’s Wednesday night carnivals in the Cacique de Ramos district. With a steadily growing reputation, Zeca matured into a musical giant, who as a 50-year-old has 15 albums, three DVDs and more album sales with the country than pretty much every other Brazilian recording artist.
The Boss of Bossa Nova: João Gilberto
Perhaps no sound is as closely tied to swinging ’60s Brazil as bossa nova, the refined offshoot of samba that blends complex harmonies and a laid-back, lounge-y vibe. With his signature voice and guitar style, João Gilberto is credited with creating bossa nova in the 1950s, though it’s his then-wife Astrud who actually recorded some of the genre’s best-known hits: ‘Bim-Bom‘ and ‘The Girl from Ipenema‘. Today, his daughter Bebel Gilberto is a major concert draw around the world.
Brazil’s Rock Heroes: CSS
Named after the Brazilian expression for ‘I got tired of being sexy’, CSS were already touring internationally when the song ‘Music Is My Hot Hot Sex’ was used in Apple advertising, and have had minor chart successes in the UK, US and Canada. Widely regarded as an exciting, eclectic prospect amongst the latest wave of indie/ new wave acts, São Paulo’s finest are certainly one to keep an eye out for.
Brazil’s Greatest Musical Tragedy: Mamonas Assassinas
Having sold an astonishing three million copies of their debut album (almost unheard of in Brazil), every member of comic rock band Mamonas Assassinas (translation: Killer Big Breasts) died in a plane accident back in 1996, leading to a funeral attended by an incredible 65,000 of their fans. Nevertheless the band remains a powerful cultural entity in Brazil, and is still influential more than a decade after their death. A short, sweet 8-month career was widely expected to only get stronger.
James Hendicott is a travel and music writer living in Ireland, and your guide to Celtic punk in the Music+Travel Worldwide from Museyon Guides. More of his work can be found at hendicottwriting.com. And be sure to tune in next Wednesday, for a new local playlist.
Photo by Fábio Nascimento/Flickr