It seems I can never quite get away from Latin music (not that I’d want to anyway). While recently reading Ken Emerson’s book Always Magic in the Air, brushing up on New York pop music from the 50s and 60s (songwriters like Bacharach and David, Lieber and Stoller, Goffin and King, and Mann and Weil) it was pointed out that the rhythm to Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, The Drifters “Under The Boardwalk” and The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” all stemmed from the Brazilian baião beat (written in Emerson’s book as the Anglicised baion). Listening to these tracks now, this is blatantly obvious, but I guess I never put the pieces together. Just listen to that opening gambit from “Be My Baby” or the rhythm of “Stand By Me”, whose scraper is clearly influenced by Latin music too:
Emerson puts the influence of Latin music on primarily Jewish songwriters and producers like Leiber & Stoller and Phil Spector as being down to their proximity to Latin communities, such as the Puerto Ricans, in New York, as well as the popularity of baião beat, which had arrived from Brazil. Little is said about exactly how this beat arrived in the US though some quick Google searches reveal that the performance of “El Negro Zumbón” in the 1952/53 Italian movie Anna may have been one of the first instances of it being heard in the States. Here’s that track below:
I think I may have to do some more digging on how this beat, which originated in the north-east of Brazil, was defined and popularised by the rural singer/songwriter Luiz Gonzaga, reaching national fame there in the 40s and 50s, and then found its way north to become a hugely important rhythm in global pop music. Definitely an interesting avenue to explore.
In November I was excited to be invited to be a part of Circulart, a music industry event that happens every year in Medellín. I have been reluctant to go to too many events like this in the past, especially when they happen in Europe. However, any invite to Latin America is hard to resist, especially when it means spending a few days in Medellín too!
As part of this event I took part in a panel offering insights into the British music industry (with a target audience of Latin American artists, agencies and labels), and which I’ve included a few snazzy photos from below.
The rest of the time I spent exploring Medellín, checking out the showcases at Circulart (which featured some really nice acts, of which Michi Sarmiento was a big highlight) and also doing a few interviews for future articles (of which I will write about on the blog). Here’s Michi doing his thing:
A while ago I curated some playlists for Songlines for Apple Music. One of these has just popped up on the Songlines website, a selection of some of the best tropicália out there, with classics by Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Os Mutantes and Gal Costa as well as a few novel selections.
So back in November and December I spoke with a tonne of people about Brazilian vinyl and the outcome was two pretty sweet articles. The first was a look at the relationship between Brazil and Brazilian records, how Brazilians feel about the fact that the most expensive rare vinyl from their country is in foreign hands, about the styles of music that have taken off as a result of this search for Brazilian records by collectors in the US, UK and Japan, and about the independent record labels who are making it possible for new Brazilian bands to release their music on vinyl. This one was in The Vinyl Factory and you can read it online using the link below:
I also put together an article that looked specifically at the UK’s relationship with Brazilian records, about how there became a thirst for Brazilian music in the 90s, and how that grew with people like Gilles Peterson, and about how now there are quite a few labels in the UK releasing Brazilian music. The piece features interviews with John Armstrong, Joe from Far Out Recordings, David from Mr Bongo, Gilles Peterson and Deejay Cliffy, as well as some help from Robert at Stern Records and a few other peops. That piece is in Long Live Vinyl issue 10 and can only be read if you get the magazine I believe. Here’s the link to more info on the issue:
There was a time when I bumped into B+ semi-regularly in Colombia. He was always at the side of Quantic, first in Discos Fuentes studio in Medellín while Quantic was working on the first Ondatropica album, then in Cartagena for the second-ever Ondatropica concert, and then a year later there he was again in Nuqui on the Pacific Coast for a festival, taking photos and videos that would eventually form the music video for a Nidía Gongora and Quantic track. So, it was nice to get the chance to interview him for the release of his new photo book, which not only features some of his work in Colombia, but also his more-famous hip-hop shots as well as some of the iconic musicians he’s captured in Brazil and Ethiopia too.
The interview featured in The Vinyl Factory, as well as on Sounds and Colours. Check the links if you want to find out more about the book and B+’s work:
I’ve been a huge fan of Meridian Brothers for many years so it was a great pleasure earlier this year to chat with Meridian mainman Eblis Álvarez about his latest album, ¿Dónde Estás María?, which is a continuation of the work he’s been doing, creating satirical, conceptual, very rhythmic work that equally draws from avant-garde ideas and Colombian mythology. In fact, on this latest effort he has stretched out even further to show an influence of pop, folk and guitar music from Peru and Brazil in his work. It’s a special record so give it a listen if you haven’t already. Here’s the link to the album on Soundway Records.
The result of our chat was a feature on Meridian Brothers in The Wire #403 and also an article that’s just been published online by Pura Mestiza, and that is available in English and Spanish.
I also asked Eblis to discuss some of the Brazilian records he has discovered on recent trips to Brazil (where he was touring with another band, Los Pirañas) and which you can check out on the Sounds and Colours website.
Check out the title track to the latest Meridian Brothers album below:
To accompany the piece I recently wrote for The Wire on the vanguarda paulista movement is this playlist of tracks by the artists involved, including songs by Arrigo Barnabé, Itamar Assumpção, Grupo Rumo, Patife Band, Eliete Negreiros, Tetê Espíndola and a few others. There’s some really quite sublime music there.
Very happy that my article on the vanguarda paulista is in this month’s edition of The Wire. The vanguarda paulista was a movement of musicians, promoters and record labels that emerged at the tail end of the 1970s in São Paulo, and maintained some sense of a movement until the mid-80s. Despite the fact that all of the artists had very different sounds they were all interested in taking ‘popular’ Brazilian music into new places, and in the process, they formed the first major independent musical movements in Brazil.
For the piece I spoke to Arrigo Barnabé, Luiz Tatit (of Grupo Rumo), Luiz Chagas and Paulo Lepetit (of Itamar Assumpção’s band), Simone Sou (who also played with Itamar Assumpção), Paulo Barnabé (of Patife Band), Wilson Souto Jr and Riba de Castro. I had also hoped to speak with Wandi Doratiotto, Ná Ozzetti, Tetê Espíndola and Suzana Salles, but unfortunately they were all too busy at the time to get involved.
Every now and then I like to write something that’s not about Latin American music. Hence, why I put together this piece for The Vinyl Factory on 10 of the finest P-Funk records to get you tuned into the collective mind-bending wavelength of Clinton, Collins, Worrell, Hazel & co.
From 16th until 29th August this year I’ll be leading a musical tour of Colombia for Songlines Music Travel. This is a tour I led last year at last minute notice (and I mean last minute notice! I got asked on the Friday, got told the itinerary on Saturday and then flew from the UK on Sunday morning!). However, this time around I’ve had some input in the itinerary itself and we’ve got an amazing trip planned. As well as visiting Bogotá, Cartagena and Medellín, as we did last year, this time we’re also going to Festival Petronio Álvarez in Cali – the biggest Afro-Latin festival in the whole of Latin America and a great chance to see so many different Afro-Colombian styles of music – as well as Barranquilla where we will get a taste of carnival and see cumbia in its most folkloric form. It’s going to be a really special trip, and I’m very excited to be leading it.
For more information on the trip, including the itinerary go to the Master Travel website. If you’re interested in finding out more about Colombian music and culture then this is your ticket!
Writing and Editing by Latin American music expert Russell Slater