REVIEW: Various - Brazilian Beats 7 (Mr. Bongo)
If you’re not already familiar with Brighton-based label Mr. Bongo, you’ve got some important homework to do. As a record label, film and publishing company specialising in music from all corners of the globe, the admirable crate-digging activities of Mr. Bongo have made it one of the most important independent music organisations ever to come out of the UK.
Trawling their back catalogue is like looking through a who’s who of luminaries from reggae, highlife, samba, bossa nova, and folk from across Africa and South America, having exposed us to everyone from Ebo Taylor and C.K. Mann, to Os Ipanemas and Tito Puente.
Their more recent history has seen them undertake an impressive re-pressing project, reissuing everyone from Peter King and Blo to Jorge Ben and Nico Gomez by using Beat Delete, Ninja Tune’s innovative crowd funding site set up specifically as a cost effective way for the labels that tragically lost their stock in the Sony-DADC warehouse fire in August 2011 to repress releases.
Next year the label celebrates a momentous occasion as they reach their quarter century anniversary, and in a year that will see the country they have been most closely affiliated with since the very beginning come to the fore of global consciousness, as Brazil host the football World Cup. To pre-emptively celebrate this pleasant coincidence, the label is releasing the next instalment in their brilliant and reliably diverse Brazilian Beats compilation series.
The seventh in the now well-established and highly respected series kicks off with a taste of 21st Century urban Brazil, with the gritty, trap-infused hip hop of Karol Conka’s Boa Noite and the Latin dancehall fanfare stylings of Salvador’s Bemba Trio; a fleeting tip of the hat to the present and future of Brazilian music. Indeed, if any proof was needed of Brazil’s love affair with football and Mr. Bongo’s affirmation for Brazil, Conka’s tough track features on the FIFA 2014 soundtrack. A nice bit of full circle trivia for you there.
The track list quickly veers back to the sounds that have characterised the label’s Brazilian output over the last 25 years however, as the instantly recognisable motifs of samba’s shuffling maracas and interlocking guitars set in in Esquindindin, which in turn give way to the lush yet epic vocals of Claudia’s 1973 piano-led classic, Deixa Eu Dizer.
From there, we’re taken on a colourful journey across the wide musical expanses of the country, an aural snapshot that takes in virtuosic piano jazz fusion in Jorge Autuori Trio’s Autorizando, a high-octane big band anthem in Junior Com Orquestra E Coro’s O Campeao, funky accordion-led Forro from relative newcomer Odair Cabeca de Poeta who apparently used to play with Tom Ze, and classically danceable samba in Sao Paolo legend Abilio Manoel’s Luiza Manequim.
Notable highlights come in the form of Djavan’s inconceivably cool and funky Nereci, the pure psych-funk energy of Zapatta’s A Mesa Santa that starts off with some pretty ominous religious chanting, Junip’s cover of all-time Brazilian great Jorge Ben, featuring a welcome return from Argentine folk singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez, right to the end with the fantastically raw field recording of two renditions from one of the founding fathers of capoeira, Mestre Bimba.
For a country so large and culturally diverse, it’s wonderfully difficult to pigeon-hole Brazilian music and so it is to create a compilation that accurately represents it but that’s exactly what this 20 track collection and all the previous Brazilian Beats anthologies manage to achieve. Here, they’ve skilfully balanced the classics with the innovative new sounds to ultimately create another lasting testament to the unbelievable myriad of styles that make up this country’s musical landscape. With this much talented musicianship under their nose, it’s no wonder this brilliant British label has dedicated much of its existence to unearthing it – and as such, it’s a fitting tribute in advance of their milestone anniversary. To 25 more!
Brazilian Beats 7 is out now, and you can also grab the bargain of the (quarter) century with their 8-CD box set for just £15.99!