Sweatin’ Suits & Tropical Grooves brings the best of Brazilian Music to English speaking audiences. Expect to hear garage, freakbeat, soul, psychedelia and a lot of what we call Rhythm & Samba.
1. Coroné Antonio Bento by Tim Maia
A song that fuses the UK garage organ tradition with a folkloric Brazilian rhythm called ‘Baião’. The song is about a rich farmer from the Brazilian colonial aristocracy who breaks tradition by going to the big city (Rio de Janeiro) and inviting ‘Benê Nunes,’ the equivalent of say, Bill Haley in Brazil, to play at his daughter’s wedding rather than a more regional ‘sanfoneiro’ (Hurdy Gurdy player). He says that on this day ‘Bodocó (a district from the conservative state of Pernambuco)’ almost ‘turned.’ The song stands as a statement of youthful breaking of tradition – much in the vein of the youth movement throughout the entire world. Tim Maia here foreshadows his own revolution by speaking of a trend that happened in the 50s but himself adding foreign elements to Brazilian textures throughout the tune.
2. Ando Meio Desligado by os Mutantes
A classic that will be instantly recognised by any fan of Brazilian music. Below you can see the Mutantes live in about the time they wrote this song. The song is reminiscent of ‘Time of the Season’ by the Zombies, but takes a different turn altogether. That is, the Zombies had much influence from Bossa Nova and Brazilian music in general, so you never know who ripped who off – see ‘Tell Her No.’ There’s a decent version in English entitled ‘I Feel a Little Spaced-Out.’ It seems to be about somebody getting ‘high’ just thinking about somebody else, so it’s psychedelic without being drug-apologetic, which is a good twist for a country run by a military dictatorship (at the time). The catch phrase is “não leve a mal (don’t take it the wrong way), which keeps it nice and casual. These guys studied at the British School of São Paulo (St. Paul’s – where the author of this went to school as well, incidentally), so the English version has decent lyrics too.
3. Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma) by Jorge Ben
Imagine an English song about George Best with Irish medieval imagery, sung at times in Gaelic. This is the black Brazilian equivalent. It’s a song about scoring a goal playing football in Africa. He keeps repeating “Homem Gol [Goal Man]”; “Joga bola, jogador [Play ball, player]!” ; “Joga bola [Play Ball], Corocondô [I couldn’t find the meaning of this, but I know that Jorge Ben always puts names and chants in the tongue of African earth religions, so that is my guess – in fact finding out what this means may be the key to understanding what the song is really about].” The lyrics are not as important as the imagery in this song where he invokes the excitement of a village football match. I did research to find out who ‘Umbabarauma’ was, but found nothing – this seems to be the name of the player in question, though not necessarily so. In other words this song is mysterious in terms of wording, but pretty straightforward sonically.
4. Alegria, Alegria by Caetano Veloso
One of my favourite songs of all time, ‘Alegria, Alegria’ is something only myself and a handful of other Brazilian misfits can relate to in a land that nowadays has been recognised as a natural and economic paradise (when in the past it was naturally beautiful though disastrous both politically and economically). Here Caetano Veloso expounds why he is leaving Brazil to move to London (where I also happen to have moved to). In the song he often repeats “Eu vou! Porque não? [I’m going! And why not?].” Sonically, it’s a complex arrangement composed by a sophisticated musician with tempo changes and irregular chord structures. However, this is one of the first tunes that Caetano clearly showed his interest in British music and shows it with organs and psychedelic imagery as well as subtle political commentary alla Bob Dylan. This is a classic 60s pop tune albeit musically sophisticated lest he lose his fame with his pre-tropicalia samba crew. My favourite bit is when he says “I drink a can of coke and she thinks about Marriage” which perfectly illustrates youth and casual liberalism versus conservatism and a worried mind.
5. Você Não Serve pra Mim by Roberto Carlos
Fuzz, Hammond, Mojo – Portuguese! This is a song that could’ve been in ‘Nuggets’ or a similar compilation showing the best of world garage music (maybe it even is somewhere). The constant organ phrases follow the song perfectly adding suspense and tension. Lyrically, it could’ve been sung by Alfie (the one with Michael Caine). The title translates to “You’re Not Good Enough for Me.” It’s one of Roberto Carlos less politically correct tunes.
6. Vem Quente Que Eu Estou Fervendo by Erasmo Carlos
This song is one of the most well known songs in Brazil. It was covered by many artists and I doubt the youth know this original version by Erasmo Carlos. His voice almost cracks, or does crack, in some parts. This is because this guy was used to singing much less belting songs. I bet someone walked into the studio with a Sonics album and said “We’re gonna have to compete with this soon, let’s get cracking!” and he did… erm… get crackin’.
7. Vendedor de Bananas by os Incríveis
Another incredible track by an incredibly underrated Brazilian 60’s group called ‘Os Incríveis’ (The Incredibles). The song is about a banana salesman in a crowded sunny market day. The different types of banana illustrate the different pleasures of life – with the obvious phallic implications. The rhythm is Samba with a jazzy twist and R & B brass and structure.
8. Tô Doidão by Reginaldo Rossi
Here we can hear organ, rhythm guitar and brass section alla Stax. Reginaldo Rossi is known for being a ‘brega’ singer, which is the brazilian word that means something in between Robbie Williams and Bryan Adams. But in this song he caught my attention explicitly saying in the chorus ‘Tô doidão, tô doidão, bicho, tô doidão….’ which basically means ‘I’m out of it, dude’ – In other words, something that can mean ‘I’m high’ and ‘I’ve gone mad’ simultaneously. Similar, in that sense to ‘Ando Meio Desligado’, track two above. In times of military dictatorship, it was fairly risky to say ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much higher’ on the equivalent of the Ed Sullivan show. Let’s hand it to this ‘brega’ singer.
9. Mestre Jonas by Sá, Rodrix & Guarabyra
Master Jones is a guru who lives inside a whale because he chose to. Listen to the groovy woodwind-like organ that fuses with that high pitched guitar to cause a rather unique blend of psychedelia.
10. Rockixe by Raul Seixas
There’s a lot to be said about Raul Seixas, known as the Brazilian Bob Dylan. The first thing I’d say is that he’s very different to Dylan – he’s tougher, more Brazilian and more of an alcoholic. He was also a follower of all-star guru Aleister Crowley and wrote songs with another follower of Crowley’s Paulo Coelho, whom you might have heard of from best-seller shelves around the world in several translations. This is a song of his ranting about his likeness to the devil alla Rolling Stones and Sabbath, but here with a very soulful samba beat that only Brazilians can pull off.
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