Posts Tagged With: samba

No samba, please, we’re British!

"As you can see , Prince, here in Rio they let it all hang out. Very un-English, I'm afraid."

“You see, Prince, here in Rio it’s all a tad tribal. Very un-English, I’m afraid.”

It’s hard for a true Brit to like Brazilian music. I mean really get into it, man, to really dig those rhythms. Samba drums are alien to us; they sound dark, primal, swampy – when we hear them, we expect to see a boiling pot of missionary soup. Then there are those tinny-sounding ukeleles being manically strummed (to a Brit, the ukelele sound goes back to George Formby and comic ‘Music Hall’ turns). To cap it all, there’s the language problem. What the hell are they going on about? All that chanting in slang Portuguese makes carnival music sound like a cheesy B-movie soundtrack. Samba is a ‘no no’, best left to the natives.

Prog-rock dinosaurs Yes: no good for weddings (or anything else)

Prog-rock dinosaurs Yes: great for, er, weddings?

Besides, us Brits are blessed with our own prodigious array of musical talent. Forget the Beatles – there’s Genesis, Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Yes and U2 – to name but a few! Any one of these perennial artists have a string of albums to choose from and all of them are bound to liven up the proceedings, be it weddings, barbecues or funerals. To be honest, even when a Brit lives in Brazil, he’s so spoilt for choice that Brazilian music never gets a look in. The worst thing is watching an ex-pat pretending to ‘feel’ that samba thing. He sits there, all white and pink, with a plastic grin on his face, tapping his foot and trying to look cool. Of course, a few caipirinhas help to lubricate the illusion.

The truth is, there’s a little bit more to Brazilian music than samba. There is something called MPB, which translates as ‘Popular Brazilian Music’. Terrible title, I admit. It makes you expect the Latin equivalent of Cliff Richard, Susan Boyle or Adele. But once you get past the label, you discover a host of musical talent so vast, various and colourful that it amounts to nothing less than an embarrassment of riches. Brazilian popular music is world class – simple as that. Even if we restrict the head-count to just a few of the greats – Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Djavan, Milton Nascimento, Rita Lee and the godfathers Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes –  we have enough astounding music to make André Rieu smash his fiddle and weep.

Brilliant Brazilian home-grown talent: Djavan

Brilliant Brazilian home-grown talent: Djavan

Brazilian song-writers, musicians and producers have listened to everything and know all the chops. They play like demons and have an irrepressible knack for mixing African, European and Indian roots to produce an exotic cocktail of sounds with a passionate lyrical undertow. In short, great songs that will make you twist and shout or laugh and cry over your beer and black beans. My favourite MPB song is Gilberto Gil’s Eu Vim da Bahia (“I came from Bahia”). Call me sentimental, but every time I hear it I marvel over its melodic complexity and its ability to tear my heart-strings to shreds. It must have been written by a god and passed into the mind of Gil by osmosis. Pure genius.

Bit of a toss-pot: Bono PR Ltd

Bit of a toss-pot: Bono PR Ltd

So what’s the message? Well, if you live in Brazil and don’t appreciate the glories that are Brazilian music you must be a kind of musical zombie; a Marmite Brit-packer who still thinks Bono is cool. Oh, and by the way, the white and pink guy with the plastic smile was me! Hey, hey!

Categories: Brazil, Music, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Music is my mistress

This vinyl junkie just can't stop himself...

This vinyl junkie just can’t stop himself…

William Shakespeare said never trust a person who is not moved by music. It’s not enough to tap your foot or sing along to the muzac on the radio: you have to need music like you need love. A song can make you glow inside, jump up and shout with joy or sit and cry your eyes out on the sofa. Most people I talk to believe that music is important in their lives. But I am suspicious of people who say they like all kinds of music: it usually means “nothing in particular”. In other words, music is not an obsession, an addiction, a drug.

You know you have an obsession when you realise that you really do like “all kinds” of music. I mean everything. When people claim to have wide taste it usually means “within the sphere of rock and pop”. My problem is I like the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And all of it looks down on me every day from my record shelves.

OK - this isn't me, but I know how he feels...

Come up and see my LPs! Go on, you know you want to.

So here’s a little test. I am appealing to everybody on the blogosphere to examine their musical predilections and try and match this for “wide-ranging taste”. My record collection covers: country and western, English and American folk, every kind of jazz (from Dixieland and Duke Ellington to avant garde scary stuff), rock and roll, deep soul, disco, reggae, samba, heavy rock, soft rock, prog-rock, punk, bossa nova, every kind of classical music (from Bach to Bartok and Benjamin Britten), blues, brass bands and Welsh male voice choirs. I even have recordings of steam trains.

The worst thing about having an unstoppable fascination with everything recorded is the embarrassing cheesy stuff you have to come clean about. Over the years I have had soft spots for Barry Manilow, David Cassidy, Helen Reddy, Mantovani and his Orchestra, Cliff Richard, Julio Iglesias, Shirley Bassey and Boy George. And I’m not gay.

Let's hear it for Barry Manilow!

Let’s hear it for Barry Manilow!

The problem with having musical “taste” (and the inflated pride that goes with it) is that so much music has to be dismissed as trash. You can only like the good stuff and look upon the rest with derision. You become a self-appointed critic panning everything that hasn’t got…well, whatever it is you think it needs. But the real secret of having musical taste is liking everything. Yes, everything (apart from gangsta rap and André Rieu, of course).

My favourite music magazine is Record Collector (published in the UK). You never know who might be on the cover: Frank Sinatra, Iggy Pop, Donny Osmond, Adele or some weird prog-rock band from the early 70s. The ethos

The weird and wonderful world of...Mike Gibbs

The weird and wonderful world of…Mike Gibbs

of the magazine is that they don’t discriminate. Of course, some readers only buy the magazine to look for their favourite artists and skip the rest. But the happiest reader, the music lover, finds excitement on every page – like a schoolboy with a comic.

So the next time somebody says they like all kinds of music, ask them if that includes Bix Beiderbecke, Dolly Parton, Jethro Tull, Throbbing Gristle, The Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra and the Nolan Sisters.

The majestic, tragic Bix Beiderbecke with his wonderful Wolverines, 1924

The majestic, tragic Bix Beiderbecke with his wonderful Wolverines, 1924

Categories: Music, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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