So my introduction into Brazilian music was shortly after I started working at my local record store in Munich. I always felt that special vibe about it, rhythm- and soundwise. But it was hard for me to find an entrance, as it always is when you try to learn more about music from a culture that is not related to yours. And to be honest, I generally felt more drawn towards music that originated in northern America, like Jazz and Soul. But last year, the store’s bestseller was Sessa’s Estrela Acesa, so I thought I might give it a shot and asked Justus, one of my colleagues, to give me some records he enjoys and would recommend. And so started a new musical journey for me that is now far from over. Below I share with you some of the albums I discovered along the way so far.
As you will see, it both includes old and contemporary albums. And this is what strikes me, that so much good music is coming out of Brazil still today. And the link to the tradition, together with the use of innovative elements, is always there.
Arthur Verocai - Arthur Verocai
Despite critical acclaim, the album was largely overlooked upon its release and Verocai moved on to other projects, like writing jingles for advertisements. However, over time, "Arthur Verocai" gained a cult following and became recognized as one of the most innovative and influential Brazilian albums of all time. Among the admirers is also Madlib, who said: “I could listen to the album everyday for the rest of my life”
It is said that the album got very successful after so-called Crate Diggers from the US came to Brazil to look for cheap and undiscovered gems that they can sample from.
Today, Arthur Verocai is still active and working with bands like BadBadNotGood and also makes live performances.
Jorge Ben - Fôrça Bruta
Fôrça Bruta, which translates to "Brute Force," is Jorge Ben's fifth album and represents a significant departure from his earlier work. The album is a unique blend of samba, funk, and rock, infused with African rhythms and chants. It was recorded by Ben and his backing band in one night-time session without rehearsing most of the tracks. Maybe it’s placebo, but in my opinion, this immediacy can be heard in this album. And as a sucker for string arrangements, I am obviously a huge fan, with tracks like Charles Jr.
Rodrigo Campos - Bahia Fantástica
This album by the Brazilian singer, songwriter and guitarist is a tribute to the state of Bahia, one of the most culturally rich regions of Brazil. The album is a mix of traditional Bahian rhythms like samba, forró, and capoeira with modern elements like electronic beats and synths.
Rodrigo Amarante - Drama
Rodrigo Amarante is a Brazilian singer-songwriter who rose to fame as a member of the band Little Joy and as the composer of the theme song for the hit Netflix series Narcos. Released in 2020, this album blends elements of Brazilian music, folk, and indie rock resulting in a mesmerizing, dreamlike experience that draws the listener in.
Sessa - Estrela Acesa
As already pointed out in the introdction to this post, this album was Optimal Records' bestseller of 2022. And rightfully so! For me, it impersonates another beautiful blend of Brazilian music with tasteful string arrangements. But Sessa gave it an individual touch, with it being an introspective album that explores themes of love, loss and self-discovery.
Joyce - Natureza
Joyce Moreno, commonly known as Joyce, is a prominent Brazilian singer, songwriter, and guitarist. This album is notable not only for its enchanting music but also for its impeccable production, which was handled by the legendary Claus Ogerman. Claus Ogerman was a legendary German arranger and composer who worked with numerous artists throughout his career, including Frank Sinatra, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Diana Krall. Although recorded in the late 70s, the album took until last year to officially come out. There are numerous reasons for that. After the recordings in New York City, Joyce went back to Brazil for different reasons. At the same time, there were creative differences with Ogerman, who wanted her to re-record it in English, which she refused. As time went on, Joyce had personal issues to deal with in Brazil, which also was under a military dictatorship’s grip. And Ogerman turned onto other projects. So the original master tapes to most of the album’s tracks to this day seem to have disappeared, but still it was possible to put this album together. What a luck for us!