Mais Um Gringo’s São Paulo Six

By 31 May, 2011

A constant flow of migrants from not just Brazil but all over the world has created a melting pot of over 20 million inhabitants in São Paulo, yet whist Rio de Janeiro is associated with bossa nova and funk carioca, Belem with carimbo and tecnobrega and Recife with manguebeat and now manguefolk, São Paulo – despite being Brazil’s centre of commerce and industry – lacks a strong musical identity.

Despite this, as the commercial heart of Brazil, São Paulo has a nightlife to envy any city – not just in South America but Europe too – and its music scene is the most vibrant and diverse in Brazil.

As the birthplace of key artists from the “new generation” such as CéU and Tulipa the city is at the forefront of ‘the new sound of Brazil’ and in Os Mutantes, Itamar Assumpção and Arnaldo Antunes the city’s also nurtured some of Brazil’s most legendary musicians. Below I celebrate São Paulo’s musical pedigree with my São Paulo Six – Paulistana musicians who’ve left their mark on the Brazilian music landscape.

Os Mutantes – Panis Et Circenses (1969)

Formed in São Paulo in 1966 by brothers Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias Baptista with vocalist Rita Lee, Os Mutantes are arguably one of Brazil’s most influential bands. Worshipped by Western musicians such as David Byrne, Beck and Kurt Cobain (who famously wrote Arnaldo a letter asking him to reform the band), their first three albums are cornerstones of not just Brazilian music but psychedelic pop. Wildly mixing influences from psychedelic acts such as The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix with native Brazilian styles, Mutantes created an intoxicating blend that is the definition of Tropicália. This is one of the few grainy black and white TV clips of Mutantes from the time when they were at the peak of their powers.

Itamar Assumpção & Isca De Polícia – Nega Musica/ Prezadissimos Ouvintes (1983)

Itamar was a key figure of Brazilian independent/alternative music in the 80s and 90s and one of the key contributors to São Paulo’s Vanguarda Paulistana scene. This clip is taken from a 1983 concert and shows him and his band at the height of their powers effortlessly blending reggae, samba, jazz and funk with sharp satire and strong social criticism. He is regularly cited as an influence by open-minded Brazilian musicians.

Titãs – O Pulso (1989)

Titãs began life in 1981 as a new wave band also associated with the Vanguarda Paulista scene. Featuring songwriter-poet Arnaldo Antunes on vocals, by the mid eighties they’d released two albums on Warner and
developed a polished art rock sound that eventually led them to become one of the most important contemporary Brazilian rock bands. Arnaldo left the band in 1992 and a version of Titãs still performs today
although the band’s most memorable work is from Arnaldo’s time with them. “O Pulso” is from their fifth album from 1989, Õ Blésq Blom.

Fernando Porto – Sambassim (DJ Patife Remix) (2002)

Two Paulistana natives teamed up to create one of the classic tunes of the Brazilian drum ‘n’ bass movement of the early 2000s. This was one of those anthems that went beyond the d ‘n’ b fraternity appearing in
every DJ’s box from Gilles Peterson to Pete Tong. Within a couple of years the Brazilian drum ‘n’ bass scene had all but vanished – I’m sure the rather clunky “drum ‘n’ bossa” nickname didn’t help matters – yet almost ten years later “Sambassim” can still waste a dancefloor.

Instituto – Ossario (2009)

A collective of Paulistina beatheads with Rica Amabis, Tejo Damasceno and Daniel Ganjaman at the nucleus, their landmark 2007 album National Collective mixed dub, hip-hop and drum ‘n’ bass with Brazilian styles and was a formative example of the sound that Ceu would eventually take to the world. Having worked with the likes of Nação Zumbi, CeU, Bnegão, Curumin, DJ Dolores, Otto and Lucas Santtana amongst many, many others, they continue to shape the new sound of Brazil. “Ossario” features Fernando Catatau from Cidadão Instigado, on guitar and is a brooding David Axelrod influenced groove.

CéU – Cangote (2009)

We couldn’t have a São Paulo hit-list without the lady who has come to epitomise the urbane, metropolitan sound of Brazil. When Starbuck’s released her debut album in 2005 she was hyped as the hot new sound
from Brazil yet it wasn’t until she released her follow up with Vagarosa in 2009 that she actually lived up to the hype. Alongside producer Beto Villares she created an intoxicating blend of dub, samba, jazz and hip-hop that to this day sounds unlike anything else on this planet. “Cangote” is one of the album’s highlight.

Mais Um Gringo produced the acclaimed Oi! A Nova Musica Brasileira! compilation of contemporary alternative Brazilian music that features CeU, Tulipa, Instituo amongst many others.

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