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MIN-DC Musical Preview: Brazil

On Wednesday DC comes to town, and with them they bring testicular-cancer survivor Nene (Nene = "baby"; I assume because he was the youngest in his family, not because he's some real life Benjamin Button). We'd like to honor Nene, but in a manner that gives no credence to his abilities at basketball, lest his head swells and he tries to actually win against the precious Twolves. I was going to post bunch of useful information and graphics pertaining to testicular cancer, which is an important topic in men's health. However, Klawitter asked if I was up for a Brazilian music preview, so we have this instead.

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I'm not going to explain what this picture has to do with this post. That's your job for the comments section. Or maybe I'll cave in because I really am an ass about spouting useless trivia.

Brazil being a large country (bigger than continental US; ~200M people), there's a wide variety of music from there. Below is just a genre-sampler, not intended to be inclusive or authoritative, nor do I think I could succeed in doing so even if I tried. There are some no-shit Mount Rushmore quality musicians not in this post, but hopefully you'll get something out of it. Enjoy!

*note: if some of these embedded youtube clips appear black to you (as they do for me running Firefox on Ubunutu), clicking within the embed should start the clip. Sorry, I don't know what the deal is.

We'll start things off simply. Every sports club in Brazil has an anthem. Every college in the US has a fight song. Whither are thou NBA teams? Does Jay-Z actually go to games of the team he himself owns and listen to Jock Jams? I guess it was not meant to be. Anyway, here's one example of many, from the only team that matters.

Capoeira - so you're probably at least a little familiar with the martial art, even if only because you defeated M. Bison with Blanka and got to read the backstory.

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via forums.gotwoot.net

As it is both a martial art as well as a dance, it's no surprise that music is integral to the whole affair. The lead instrument is a berimbau, the playing of which provides direction to the capoeiristas. There's also some more conventional percussion instrumentation (smaller drums and tambourine). I'm really no expert, though I do have a CD or two of Mestre Marcos Barrao (and there are many more options on YouTube). This is very much fighting music, and know that whenever I watch Matt Barnes act like Matt Barnes, this is exactly what starts pumping through my ears.

Hip-Hop. Shouldn't surprise anyone that hip-hop is being locally produced in every corner of the globe. From Brazil I call out AfroReggae. More of a cultural group who taught themselves music (rather than musicians who then became socially active). [Warning: gross oversimplification to follow] They threw together enough kick-ass concerts and funk dance parties to chase drug dealers and violent criminals out of their neighbourhood. Which, as you recall, is exactly what Jack Black promised us in School of Rock.

By all means check out the excellent documentary Favela Rising.

Carnaval. Everyone has of course heard of Carnaval, I include it here just to point that the music that accompanies the parade is of it's own specialized genre, "Samba-Carnaval". Massive percussion section; a fast-paced samba rhythm; a single theme delivered with a lot of energy. I include this link from a staged live TV performance (as opposed to the actual parade) because it shows some of the instrumentation, singers, and dancers. The school shown is Vai-Vai - their practice space is about 1/2 a block from my grandparent's apartment in Sao Paulo, so whenever I was there to visit I'd get to hear these guys practice a few times a week.

MPB

Here is a genre so massive I cannot think of one example that would summarize or even adequately introduce it. The name itself is obviously an attempted catch-all, "Musica Popular Brasileira" [Brazillian Popular Music]. It coalesced in the mid-60's and continues to this day. It borrows from jazz, rock, samba, bossa-nova, some Brazilian country-styles, etc. One thing I'd like to point out is the importance of lyrical content, which obviously can't really transfer over. Here is a sample for Chico Buarque, a personal favorite and a guy I've always thought of as kind of a Brazilian counterpart to Bob Dylan (more of a songwriter than a voice performer, politically conscious, etc). I was able to find a version with English translations.

Another example I'll cite is "The Girl from Ipanema", which everybody has obviously already heard before. The last stanza (1-minute mark) is my favorite and isn't part of the standard lyrics in English.

Trem das Onze ("11 O'clock Train") - Adoniran Barbosa... damn I love this song. A guy sings to the woman he's with that he needs to leave her and catch the last train home, as he's an only son and responsible for his household.

On a lighter note, within MPB includes the sub-genre of "Samba-Cancao". With an emphasis on voice performance and lyrical content, it usually has a gentle, swaying rhythm - this musical style has lent it's name to a particular style of men's underwear. If you don't understand the reference, I suggest you save yourself the shame and not ask anyone to explain it to you.

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via cdn.shopify.com

Pagode - Probably another sub-genre of MPB. It's hard to explain, so l leaned on Wikipedia,which describes it as a style that evolved from being played in backyards and parks (and from there, outdoor concerts). Check the video.

Classical your thing? Look up Heitor Villalobos, who was kind of a big deal. Cranked out a lot of stuff for acoustic guitar.

Axe [ah-sheh] - Here's a genre that came out of northern Brazil and blew up nationally in the 90's. Inclusion of the following sample is the kind of thing that gives dedicated music snobs something to shit all over, and I feel everyone should get a chance to participate.

Oof. That's probably enough for now and I haven't even put a dent into all of what's out there. Maybe Fab Melo will stop sucking just enough to justify doing another one of these for him one day. But probably not. If you really don't want to get any work done today, Wikipedia and Youtube are your friends (just kidding, that's what the comments section is for).

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Robert Carlos has the greatest number of albums sold in Brazil, one of which appears to be hanging from his neck.

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