SUMMER SONGS 2010: DJ RANI D


Martinho da Vila: Disritmia
From Canta canta, minha gente (RCA Victor, 1974)

(Editor’s Intro: DJ Rani D hosts the bi-weekly “Soul in the Park” party at Footsie’s in Cypress Park and I’ve had the distinct pleasure to DJ with him many times over the last couple of years; he’s one of the guys who turned me onto cumbia and his ability to switch genres in the middle of a heated mix is a skill all its own. For his summer song post, Rani D takes us back to a swinging hammock in Santa Teresa. –O.W.)

    I remember the first time I heard this song I was laying in a hammock in Santa Teresa, a hilly borough in northern Rio. On this summer afternoon, a local sambista (who would frequently loiter the hostel I was staying at) wanted to listen to the records I had recently acquired, so he brought his turntable and janky speakers with him on this particular visit. As he thumbed through my records, most of which I hadn’t heard yet, I was eager to see which ones he decided to play – especially since he was familiar with some of the records, and he had a sense of what the gems were. When he finally played this album, I remember this song in particular really catching my attention. The lazy sway of the rhythm, the way the vocals were wafting out of the cheap speakers he was using – there was something perfect about the whole scene.

    Although this song is fairly straight-ahead and not hard to find, this style of samba at the time was still very new to me. I was immediately captivated by the sensual delivery of the lyrics, the steady groove and languid use of guitar and cavaquinho, the way the bass comes in, the tension that slowly builds as a result of the interplay between the vocalist and the chorus, all complete with a subtly epic ending using strings and harp.

    I can’t deny that L.A. summers are different from those in Rio. So whenever I feel the need to transport myself back to that summer moment on the hammock, I throw this one on, lay back, and enjoy the sway.

SUMMER SONGS 2010: LAUNCH!



Cassiano: Onda
From 12″ (Polydor, 1977)

The 2010 edition of the Soul Sides Summer Songs series has a few small changes. For one, the archive has been moved over to Word Press. Secondly, I’m going to post all summer song posts to our main site (here) but still archive everything at its dedicated site.

Most importantly, for at least this year, I’ve asked contributors to write about just one song. For some naive reason, I thought this would make it easier but it’s actually been quite a challenge from folks to limit their musings about summer to just one song. But personally, I like having that kind of framework/limitation. It forces you to be precise (at least in theory).

As the editor…I’m going to cheat though, allowing myself at least a few entries throughout the summer (though again, I’ll only post about a song at a time), beginning with this one…

I’ve actually been waiting a couple of months to write about this song – I got the 12″ back in March but held off until now because I knew I wanted it to be the first summer song I wrote about.

Cassiano was a major figure in the Brazilian soul movements of the 1970s – apparently a contemporary of folks like Tim Maia, Hyldon, Ivan Lins, etc. The folks at Soul Strut were the one who put me up on “Onda” and from the moment I heard it, it absolutely nailed this slow, perfect groove that sounds like a quintissential summer song with its breezy sway and liquid feel.

The fact that the song mostly repeats the hook, over and over, works to its advantage: it takes you out of the routine elements of the day and envelopes you in this mantra that subtly unwinds and relaxes. Hell, I don’t even quite know what they’re saying but I’m assuming it’s nothing urgent. What better way to kick off the summer then to put this on constant rotation and let the season wash over you?

With that, Summer Songs 2010 is officially on. We already have a nice line-up of guest writers lined up; just keep it locked here until the autumn closes us down.

CHICANO BATMAN: LOS CABALLEROS OSCUROS


Chicano Batman: Lembrancinha (snippet)
Itotiani (snippet)
From Chicano Batman (Unicornio, 2010)

When Super Sonido’s Joseph Franko sent me this album, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A name like “Chicano Batman” doesn’t really instantly invoke a particular sound – it’s a bit hard to reconcile, say, East L.A./Whittier Blvd. soul with the “Batman” theme – so when I threw it on, I was prepared to expect anything and yet I got was a genuine surprise of the best kind.

Chicano Batman is made up of the Los Angeles’ trio of Bardo Martinez, Eduardo Arenas and Gabriel Villa and they’re clearly conversant with any number of styles – many of which don’t scream “Chicano” in any predictable way. For example, what instantly struck me the first time listening through was the heavy Brazilian influence. As you can hear on “Lembrancinha” (Portuguese for “souvenir”), the whole vibe is very Jorge Ben/Milton Nascimento. “Itotiani” is more enigmatic to me and even more sublime – I love the mix of soulful rhythms with the spacey zaps and those “oooh whee” background vocals. The rest of the album goes in many different directions, including some nice, laid-back cumbias; it’s just a hard LP to pin down to any single sound.

The band is going to be playing this Wednesday at one of my favorite Southland bars – Footsies. Looks like this will be at my man Rani D’s night; L.A. peeps – come through and holler.

PICK SIX: DESCER COMIGO



I’ve spent the last few days, trying to figure out what it is about the Brazilian music I find myself gravitating towards. I am not, remotely, a hardcore Brazila-phile, though not for lack of interest…as I’ve probably said in the past, Brazilian music is just so insanely massive that to really “get into it” you have be willing to turn over a good part of your life, dedicated to its majesty and complexity. Tempting as that siren’s call may be, I have to concede that to my betters.

To be sure, Brazilian music in all its myriad forms has proven beguiling the world over and I wish I had some genius insight into explaining why but despite using my (remaining) brain cells to articulate what the secret is, I’m still at a loss. In the most general, the Brazilian styles I tend to find most compelling – bossa nova, samba, Tropicalia – all offer this intriguing, intricate balance between subtle but often puissant rhythms and some of the most sophisticated melodies you can imagine. Add to that the incredible “feel” of the music which always inspires metaphors of comfort, layering and “wrapping” from me. Seriously, I really wish I had a less prosaic way to try to nail whatever that vibe is but it’s ever elusive. Unlike Afro-Cuban music, the Brazilian I like doesn’t make me want to dance. Unlike American soul, Brazilian doesn’t necessarily invoke deep emotion. Mostly, it makes me feel good. I’m not quite sure why that is but I’ll take it.

What follows is – at best – a smattering of different songs I’ve been listening to lately, mostly because they’re all recent purchases. They’ve been a reminder to me that I really should be listening to (and thus enjoying) more Brazilian tunes. Hope you will be similarly inspired…


Ivan Lins: Madalena
b/w Hei, Vocé
From Agora (Forma, 1970)

This Lins – his debut – is a truly remarkable album, easily one of the most soul-influenced Brazilian albums I’ve heard yet (not surprisingly Arthur Verocai produced it). One song I didn’t include, “Baby Blue” is a straight up soul ballad, very Bill Withers-esque in fact, and Lins switches between Portuguese and English during the tune; really lovely (maybe I’ll include it in some future ballads post). Now…if that’s the song I left off, you can imagine how good the inclusions are. I start with Lins big early hit, “Madalena,” a song probably most connected with Elis Regina.

What I find interesting about the difference between Lins’ version and Regina’s (and I’m not clear whose was actually recorded first but I’m going to guess Regina’s) is how each interpolates that opening piano riff. It’s funny but when I first heard Lins’ song, I thought, “ah, this must be where DJ Monk-One” got the melody for “Bossa Biz” from but then realized: no, the notes are different. It wasn’t until I heard Regina’s that I found the correct source but I was relieved to know that the similarities I thought I heard weren’t just a figment of my imagination. That little piano riff alone – regardless if Lins’ or Regina’s – is just about one of the tastiest single bars I can imagine. Then you throw on that rhythm section Lins is backed by and it’s just too perfect.

(Here’s a more recent video of Arthur and Ivan playing this song together).

“Hei, Vocé,” is equally, if not more compelling: it has so many great elements going for it: that opening horn line which sounds very “Crystal Blue Persuasion” to me, the funk-inspired drumming and then those background singers behind Lins, “doo-doo-ing” to their hearts content. All this and drum breaks + horn stabs midway through? Are you kidding me?


Paulo Diniz: Ninfa Mulata
b/w Chutando Pedra
From Quero Voltar Pra’ Bahia (Odean, 1969)

I can’t find much on Diniz despite the fact that this album has been, in the past, reissued on CD. It certainly seems to have come out during a time when Brazilian musicians were responding to the explosion in funk music coming out of the States; this Diniz album would compare favorably to, say, Tim Maia’s work (in fact, the two sound very similar with their gruff, growling vocals). “Chutando Pedra” puts that voice front and center over a mid-tempo, jangling beat that reminds me of some British mod rock of the era; make sure to listen deeper to catch the excellent piano work being done here.

The absolute monster on the album though is “Ninfa Mulata” which google-translates into “mulatto nymph” (please correct me if I’m wrong here!) and that fuzzed out guitar/bass(?) at the beginning is possibly one of the hardest sounding things I’ve heard since I first heard this. The song does shift in tone after that opening and goes a big more pop-y but I’m happy to just loop up the first 12 seconds and hang out there for a while.


Tamba Trio: Mas Que Nada
b/w Mania de Maria
From Avanco (Phillips, 1963)

Taking a far softer approach is the light and lively sounds of the Tamba Trio, one of the most prolific and important bossa nova groups of the 1960s. This is from their second album and much of it drifts breezily on slick bossa rhythms and melodies. Their version of “Mas Que Nada” is quite good which basically leads me to conclude that this Jorge Ben song is simply impossible to f— up. I’m sure there are bad versions out there; I just have never heard one. It really bespeaks Ben’s genius in constructing a song with much beautiful dynamics going for it – the melodic hook that’s so familiar, that soaring vocal bit that – here – is done in harmony. Gorgeous.

I’m going to end this dip into Brazil with the quietest of the songs I’ve included – a little bossa ballad “Mania de Maria.” I love how this song opens – that solo piano, set adrift in melancholy before taking a spritely but serene turn into a jaunty dance number. Throw it on after dinner and enjoy where it takes you.

BREEZY RHYTHMS

Triorganico: Nana + Tempo De Amor
From Convivencia (Now Again, 2009)

Considering the “alternative” label Now Again is, “Convivencia” might be the most “alternative” release in their catalog yet. It’s part of the “new” Now Again for lack of a better explanation. Whereas they previously were known primarily for their reissues of regional soul from yesteryear, the label has really reshuffled their image over the last 18 months. New music from the likes of afrofunk musicians Karl Hector and the Malcouns (a side project of Jan Whitefield) and Mr. Chop with his spacey brand of psychedelic funk can be an easily understood extension of the preconceived notion of the Now Again brand. Their latest release from acoustic latin jazz trio Triorganico showcases the label’s refusal to be categorized as a one-trick pony.

Fabiano Do Nascimento gently strums his seven string guitar while Ricardo “Tiki” Pasillas provides the backbeat with syncopated percussion and Pablo Calogero woos you with various flutes and woodwind friends such as soprano sax and bass clarinet. Working like a singing group who could whisk you away with a breezy serenade by any of its members, the bandmates shift gears of lead instruments working as a harmonious conglomerate. No one overpowers their counterparts and instead choose to work cohesively as a unit.

“Tempo De Amor,” in its seven-and-a-half minutes, builds into a jam frenzy. Starting out lightly with a tantric guitar riff and Tiki’s jaunty percussion, Pablo teases you with little flute stabs here and there before coming front and center to lead the pack. Midway through, Tiki starts to pick up the pace, feeding off Pablo’s billowy breaths of bliss.

Aside from the lengua del amor, they also tackle Moacir Santos’ “Nanã.” It’s one of two Santos numbers they perform on the album, both with a bossa flair. Pablo trades in his flute for a bass clarinet to guide the rhythm that sways your hips. Like dance partners who have been performing together for years, the trio really dance about well with one another on this track, especially between the guitar and clarinet, moving in sync with their proverbial footwork.

The album, I must say, is an excellent companion to the latest Waxpoetics (issue 36), the Brazil issue. Pop in the Triorganico CD (or vinyl), sit back on the couch or favorite recliner, and get lost in the rhythms from south of the equator – which, when I think about it, is not a bad way to spend the evening after a long day of working for the man.

MÚSICA BRASILEIRA PARA O VERÃO

Céu: Bubuia
From Vagarosa (Six Degrees, 2009)

I’m not quite sure what it is about Brazilian music that makes the sun shine and evokes a sense of summertime. Maybe you’ve heard of Céu, maybe you haven’t – but maybe you should. This chanteuse, who has previously been nominated for a Grammy in 2007, has some serious vibes going on with “Vagarosa,” out this Tuesday. “Bubuia” lightly sways with its jaunty percussion. Meanwhile, the rest of the album features a nice blend of acoustic instrumentation but also blends in some underscored turntable effects to create a modern sound yet still keep its roots deeply planted. She wrote or co-wrote much of the album which was produced by Beto Villares.

You’ve read about the Brazilian old school, and now, along with Curumin, you can hear some of the new school, too.

BRAZILIAN SOUL CONTEST WINNERS

The winners of the Black Rio 2 CD are:

Ruben Mendoza of California
Ian Taylor from the Windy City
Jason Villani from Connecticut
Bill Belanger from Massachusetts
Brad Shapiro from The Big Apple

Again, thank you to Strut for the giveaways, and to you, our readers, for your continued support of Soul-Sides! Answers are below.

Questions:

1. The Batmacumba is a club where DJ Cliffy spins Brazilian music in what city?
2. Name the world-famous landmark seen here.
3. What is Brazil’s official language?

Answers:

1. London, UK
2. O Cristo Redentor (aka Christ The Redeemer)
3. Portuguese

BRAZILIAN SOUL – WIN IT BEFORE YOU CAN BUY IT!

Guimaraes E O Grupo Som Sagrado: Our Sound + Os Diagonais: Na Vou Chorar
From Black Rio 2: Original Samba Soul 1971-1980 (Strut, 2009)

June 23rd sees the release of the second volume in the Black Rio series. The first in the series is now out of print. Compiled by DJ Cliffy, an expert in the field of Brazilian music, the set explores an explosive period in Brazilian soul and funk.

The album features a wide range of style with two of my favorites I’ve posted above. The first by Guiamaraes E O Grupo Som Sagrado starts off with a wicked rhythm guitar and some nice percussion.

The second by Os Diagonais has a very funky and heavily American-influenced feel (called Soul Brasileiro) that grabs the funky bass lines of the James Brown sound, and, in the middle section, a gruff voiced singer jumps in and reminds you of Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie.” This song knocks about as hard as any of its American brethren.

I may not know what they’re singing about in all the songs (my Portuguese never was what it should have been), but I can dig the groove. It’s not all foreign tongues. There was a group of singers known simply as The Brazilian Singers such as Otavio Augusto Fernandes Cardoso (aka Peter Dunaway), Jose Eduardo Franca Pontes (aka Joe Bridges), and Mauricio Alberto (aka Morris Albert) that were well known in Brazil for singing in English, even if it meant being castigated by local critics. But as it was, times were changing and this was one of the best ways for them to get heard on radio.

With summer upon us, it’s definitely a good pick up when you’re out record shopping later this month. Courtesy of Strut, Soul-Sides is giving away FIVE copies that you can win before you can even buy it! Answer the three questions below for your chance to win. Many thanks to Strut for the giveaways, and to you, our readers, for your continued support of Soul-Sides!

Even if you don’t think you know all the answers, give it a shot. You can’t win if you don’t enter!

Contest Rules:

1. Contest ends at midnight on Friday, June 19, 2009. Entries that arrive after that time are ineligible.
2. Only US addresses are eligible. Sorry international readers!
3. Should there be more than five contestants with all correct answers, five names will be chosen in a drawing of those who answered correctly. Should fewer than five people answer correctly, then winners with all correct answers will automatically win with the remaining winners to be chosen by a random drawing.
4. Your first response is your official and final response.
5. You are only eligible to win one of the five CDs.

Questions:

1. The Batmacumba is a club where DJ Cliffy spins Brazilian music in what city?
2. Name the world-famous landmark seen here.
3. What is Brazil’s official language?

E-mail your responses to soulsideseric AT gmail.com and put Black Rio in the subject line.

STILL LOVING GOOD RECORDS


Betty Wright : Where Is The Love
from “Danger High Voltage” on Alston (1974)

McDonald & Gilles : Tomorrow’s People – The Children of Today
from their self-titled album on Cotillion (1971)

Letta Mbulu : Mahlalela (Lazy Bones)
from “Letta” on Chisa (1970)

Milton Nascimento : Para Lennon e McCartney
from “Milton” on Odeon (1970)

The TNT Band : Cool Clave
from “The Meditation” on Cotique (1968)

Merlene Webber : No Happiness
from 7″ on Studio One (197?)

Happy belated b-day to one of the best blogs in the game! It’s been a little while since I’ve had a chance to put together a post, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less crazy about good records (or less of a zealot when it comes to sharing them). When I first stumbled on Soul-Sides, I’m pretty sure it was the Roberto Roena “Que Se Sepa” post, I was madly inspired and knew I wanted to do pretty much the same exact thing. It took a while to get my own blog up and running, but Captain’s Crate never would have been if it weren’t for this site. While the Crate is no longer going, I’m still doing what I do at my new improved blog Mixtape Riot, throwing regular events in NYC, and diggin for records with money that I should be saving for the rent. And yes, I will still be posting forgotten gems up here for as long as O-Dub allows me to!

There’s no connecting thread to today’s selections. Just new records I got and LOVE. And since I find it harder and harder to make time to record vinyl, once I’m doing it I try to digitize as many cuts as possible.

I’m sure Betty Wright is known to most Soul-Sides readers (whose music library could be complete without “Clean Up Woman”?), but this proto-disco bomb is a recent discovery for me. The bridge harmonies and horn breakdown will undoubtedly ignite any sensible dancefloor. There’s a great Danny Krivit re-edit of this track out there somewhere that’s worth tracking down as well.

McDonald & Gilles were original members of the King Crimson band but left after their ’69 North American tour. I guess they wanted to focus on making their own music- and I’m glad they did! This record had been suggested to me a handful of times, but finally finding it in a dollar-bin is what it took for me to actually listen to it. God bless funky Brits who know how to craft trippy harmonies and leave room for the drums to break.

South Africa’s Letta Mbulu is another artist who I’d heard about, but never managed to track down on record until recently. The fact that she was discovered by David Axelrod and signed to Capitol because of him says a lot. She was making power moves alongside Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba in the late 60’s and managed to work with some of the TOP session players of the time. This record finds her backed by the Crusaders band and cuban percussionist Francisco Aguabella– find it!

Out of Brazil, I bring you a 2-min wah-wah fuzz bomb from Milton Nascimento (you thought he was soft, right?). Dedicating this first song on the LP to The Beatles, Milton goes on to deliver a jaw-droppingly beautiful record which has all the delicate moments you’d expect from this folky crooner, but also brings the raucous energy and experimentation of the Tropicalia movement. Don’t sleep on Milton, check Club da Esquina for more of the good stuff.

I know O-Dub has been building up his Latin stacks for a while now, but hopefully this rowdy mambo workout from The TNT Band is new to him. Simple and effective, TNT must have used this song to please the old school dancers at their shows in the late 60’s when just about every other song they did was a boogaloo or doo-wop number.

Finally, I leave you all with a skankified Studio One heart crusher from Merlene Webber. This song has helped me in desperate times of need. Next time you find yourself home alone with a bottle of whiskey and a hole in your chest, put this one on and turn up the volume!

TIMELESS III: ARTHUR VEROCAI THIS SUNDAY

You know how we do!

Soul Sides has three pairs of tickets to give away. If you slept on the previous two Timeless shows…you wack! Don’t make it a hat trick and miss out on Email us with the subject line “Verocai giveaway”. Make sure to include your full name.


I confess, I don’t know a ton about Verocai except that I always associate him, rightly or wrongly, with Brazil’s Tropicalia movement of the late 1960s which was both an intense period of both cultural and political collisions and musical evolution (check out Brutality Garden if you’re really interested).

Verocai’s 1972 album on Continental is a straight up Brazilian holy grail LP and personally, if you listen to how intricate his arrangements are, how brilliant his fusions of Brazilian and American styles come together here, you can understand why people jones for this album so badly.

And he’s going to be playing in LA with a 30 piece orchestra? No brainer.

Arthur Verocai: Caboclo
Arthur Verocai: Na Boca Do Sol
From S/T (Continental, 1972)