Discussing Brazilian Music with Aloe Blacc

By 27 June, 2011

Aloe Blacc is an American soul singer best known for his single “I Need A Dollar”, which is currently everywhere. He is also involved with the Red Hot + Rio 2 project, appearing on a cover of “Baby” as well as offering his own composition “Nascimento (Birth) – Scene 2”. These songs highlight his admiration for Brazilian music and show how samba and bossa nova have become an integral part of modern soul music.

We had a chat with Aloe to find out more about how he got involved with Red Hot + Rio 2 and to find out more about his love for Brazilian music. Before we start though; if you are one of the few people not to have heard “I Need A Dollar” here is a video of Aloe performing the song live:

First off, when did you become interested in Brazilian music, and what were the artists that first made an impression?
I became interested in Brazilian music in my late teenaged years. Since I was into hip hop music I enjoyed sampling the sounds of bossa nova. Eventually, I became a big fan of artists like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto and Caetano Veloso. My Brazilian guitarist friend, Fabiano do Nascimento, introduced me to the music of Hermeto Pascual, and my friend DJ Day shared with me music from Arturo Verocai. Another friend, Lorenzo Rivelli, shared with me the greatness of Jorge Ben.

What was it about the music that appealed to you?
I was first drawn to Brazilian music because of the ease and feel of bossa nova. The patient and sincere voices singing in Portuguese were also inviting. Ultimately, I fell in love with harmonies in the chords and the infectious rhythm providing foundation for the other tonal instruments.

Do you think any of these have had an influence on how you personally create music?
Within my catalogue, I have tried to make music that achieves the relaxed beauty that I find in Brazilian music. I have recorded lyrics to some of Luiz Bonfá’s instrumental recordings and have made some Bossa Nova myself in an attempt to honor the craft of my Brazilian heros. I have also borrowed from the energy of samba to make some uptempo dance tunes and remixes.

On Red Hot + Rio 2 you do two songs. The first is a cover of Baby. Why did you decide to cover this particular song?
I normally don’t use the word “baby” in my lyrics because I feel that it is trite and overused, but I am a fan of Caetano Veloso, so I didn’t mind saying it in a cover. I also am a fan of Alice Smith who sings on a version of the song with me as a duet. Most importantly, I believe in the mission of the Red Hot organization and am honored to be part of the Rio 2 release.

You also do a version of Nascimento (Birth) Scene 2 with Clara Moreno? What’s the story behind this song?
I originally received a beat CD from J Rawls and recorded a song called “Bailar” (listen below) that he says has a Joyce sample. On my debut solo album, Shine Through, I re-recorded the song with my friend Fabiano on guitar and extended it to include a very ambient ending, which became a different song. I named the song after Fabiano’s last name because it means “birth” and the lyrics are about the birth of a new relationship. I am very happy that Joyce’s daughter, Clara, was able to share the track with me. it brings the song full circle musically.

J Rawls & Aloe Blacc – “Bailar”

Would you be able to name one particular album that you would recommend to someone as an introduction to Brazilian music?
There are many, but I would suggest Jorge Ben’s “Negro e Lindo” as a good introduction to Brazilian music. I have found myself spending many hours listening to this album.

Have you been to Brazil or have any plans to go?
I have never been to Brazil but I am planning to go this summer for a performance with my band The Grand Scheme. I am looking forward to experiencing what everyone talks about when they return from Brazil.

To find out more about Aloe Blacc and his music visit www.aloeblacc.com.

Here is a final video clip of Aloe performing on La Blogotheque‘s Take Away Show:

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