Album Reviews

Various – Essential Brazilian Flavas

(Outcaste) UK release date: 5 April 2004

Essential Brazilian Flavas Let’s get the clichés out of the way to begin with. Brazilian music is – blah blah blah – the sound of the samba /summer /with its silky smooth choco socca Latin rhythms skills etc. Ever since that pesky Girl From Ipanema sashayed her way into the collective consciousness, Brazilian music has always been tainted with the brush of being sexy, sultry and somehow redolent of all that is lively and worth living. The same cannot be said of Radiohead.

This is music for the booty and the soul, not for the head-scratching or navel-gazing crew. For that reason it has occasionally suffered from the casual dumb music tourist who finds it “shallow” and reggae “a bit repetitive”.

Brazilian music’s roots come from peasant protest folk music created from strife for the ‘downtimes’ when the siesta partied with the carnival and come up with the baby of the original good times music, whether it’s shuffling genially like a drunken uncle remembering the years of disco, or being the annoying shouty teen of Brazilian rap or anything in between. The lust for the sunny life of Brazil unmistakably seeps into the grooves, in the same way that Britishness is defined by suburban gritty drama and the restraint of beasts.

This collection of ‘flavas’ paints a broad palette of tastes including the criminally cool Rio Jazz of Wilson Simonal (last heard in the film City Of God), the frantic rap of motor ad favourites Tejo, Black Alien E Speed, the lo-fi indie strum of The Bees‘ A Minha Menina (as heard in the Citroen ad) the downtempo (Morcheeba mixed) beats of Cibelle to such unlikely bedfellows as Everything But The Girl and a version of The Lady’s A Tramp from 1967 (that swings more than Beckham’s golden balls). The beauty of this compilation is the way 40-year old tunes rub shoulders effortlessly with fresh spanking new ones. Ironically, it is the couple of Brazilian drum and bass tracks drag the album flow down.

Record label Outcaste are rapidly becoming a touchstone for gathering eclectic acts under genre umbrellas with no music snobbery on show. The same way Soul Jazz wallow in their sunny reggae/Caribbean treasures and David Byrne‘s excellent Luaka Bop keeps unearthing gems from the Mexican/Brazilian sub-genres (samba, socca, bossa nova, choro, flamenco etc).

“Brazilian Flavas”? Hell yeah! With a double tequila! “Essential”? A good general intro for those eager to muddy their musical waters beyond the English-singing world, but may seem a bit too clean for the purists. I still think it’s Skill!

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