Brazil with Michael Palin: the soundtrack

In honour of the Rio Olympics kicking off today, I thought I’d “repurpose” this old post about Brazilian music.

While I was working at Far Out Recordings back in 2012, the BBC broadcasted the 4-episode travel series Brazil with Michael Palin.

The show consisted of the comedian/actor/writer/TV presenter (!!) travelling around the country showing what a highly diverse place Brazil is.

In each episode, Palin showed a different region in Brazil and, at Far Out, every morning after, I wrote a text about the musical scene’s history of that particular region and put together playlists to illustrate.

It was probably my favourite thing to do during my time there and it was pretty successful. I tried to find an old tweet by then Telegraph writer Rob Fitzpatrick saying something along the lines of “loving it!”, but I couldn’t.

Either way, the purpose of the project was not only to raise awareness to the label’s long-standing status as reference for Brazilian music outside of Brazil, but also to promote some of the label’s catalogue through the playlists.

You can read all four texts below with their respective soundtracks:


 

“BRAZIL WITH MICHAEL PALIN – BBC1 24/10/12

How can I have claimed to have seen the world if I haven’t seen Brazil?”- Michael Palin gives you the insights to Brazil; Far Out gives you the soundtrack.

Not just of samba and football is Brazil made of. And Michael Palin’s new series shows it from the very first minute of its premiere on BBC1.

As obvious Brazil fans, while we’re much appreciating the new show, we thought we’d add a soundtrack to it by commenting on the local music of some of the places Michael explores.

Last night’s show (24/10) was all about the Northeast, the region where PedroAlvarez Cabral, the dude who accidentally discovered terra brasilis, first set ashore.

As Michael showed us, the region is rich in African culture inherited from the slaves who came with the European bourgeoisie to set up camp and a lot of different music genres were born from that mix.

Like the music from Jorge Ben, for example, who was born to an Ethiopian mother and whose songs have a lot of African influence. He is actually from Rio, but we thought we’d mention him as his 1963 tune ‘Rosa, Menina Rosa’ featured in last night’s show and, coincidentally, last week at Far Out’s HQ!

Also born in the Northeast of Brazil, most precisely in the home to the baiana cuisine Michael had the pleasure to taste, the superstitiously religious state of Bahia, were some of Far Out’s favourites: Hyldon, who recently recorded with Azymuth’s man Alex Malheiros and Raul Seixas.

Father of Brazilian rock ‘n roll in 70s dictatorship-dominated Brazil, Seixas’ work was also influenced by Northeastern rhythms such as baião and forró. The latter, which spread to the rest of the country in the early noughties in a somewhat softer, slightly poppy version and was a big hit among young people from Rio to São Paulo to Rio Grande do Sul with its fun and sexy dance moves at nightclubs and even gyms that introduced forró dance classes as workout sessions.

Londoners can actually find forró nights at Guanabara on Sundays and Forró do Galpão at Corbet Place on Thursday nights.

We’ll try to put a playlist together with our posts too so it’s easier for our readers to follow.”


 

“BRAZIL WITH MICHAEL PALIN – BBC1 31/10/12

Another week, another episode, another playlist.

I have to say, putting the music aside for a moment, I found it very opportune to see Michael asking about the Yanomami tribe’s relationship with the government just as the Brazilian press has been all about the Guarani Kaiowa tribe’s threat of committing collective suicide due to a territorial dispute and following the Belo Monte issue which Michael mentioned too as he visited the Xingu tribe.

Now back to music matters, Manaus: Teatro Amazonas. What a beauty!

Unfortunately there’s no original version of “O Guarani” (the opera the orchestra was rehearsing) but here’s a video someone kindly posted on YouTube.

Wish they could’ve sent that stock of Guaraná Antarctica UK to Far Out’s HQ instead!

Moving on to Belem, what did you think of the Amazonian Beyonce, Gaby Amarantos and her tecno brega? We’ll leave you with your own thoughts on that one…

Brasília, Brazil! Brasília, Distrito Federal.

A mecca for Brazilian rock ‘n roll back in the 80s where not just Capital Inicial came from, but many others like Aborto Elétrico (the one who originated Capital) and one of the most influential bands in the Brazilian rock scene, Renato Russo‘s Legião Urbana, which we add to our playlist twice: “Indios”, considering last night’s show’s theme, seems pretty suitable but we couldn’t leave out one of the greatest rock operas of all time, “Faroeste Caboclo”, which also touches on the subject of caboclos talked about when Michael visited the rubber tappers.

We also add Cássia Eller, who was one of the most distinctive and fearless singer-songwriters in Brazil, Zélia Duncan and Raimundos, a slightly hardcore-ish band with their funny, innuendo-filled lyrics.

It’s a shame the show only dedicated 5 minutes to Brasilia, but I suppose it’s fair considering the city, having been built in the 1950s, is just a little baby compared to the indigenous tribes that have been there for over 500 years.

You, Far Out audience, however, will hear plenty more of the city in the sounds of Sexy Fi, our latest release hailing from the modernist capital which has already been catching the ears of our friends across the pond in the US.

We got quite some good feedback on last week’s post. Do keep them coming, guys! We’re happy to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this.

As per usual, playlist below. This week’s one a bit rockier than usual.”


“BRAZIL WITH MICHAEL PALIN – BBC1 07/11/12

I don’t think it was BBC’s intention, but the fact they placed the second pop-rock state right after ending last week’s episode with Brasilia, the first, fits in really well with our musical journey.

Minas Gerais is one large state in the southeast region of Brazil and one can find several different music genres from pagode to country and the in-betweens. But, while Brasilia was the pop-rock capital in the 80s, Belo Horizonte (or, more commonly known as BH) took over in the 90s bringing popular acts (to this day) such as Skank, an often Beatles-influenced band (from songs to haircut); and Jota Quest, whose rise to fame came around the early 90s with their funk-rock version of one of Hyldon’s classic, As Dores do Mundo.

Fast-forwarding to Rio…”cidade maravilhosa cheia de encantos mil

The Marvelous City, as it is very well-known, is very close to our heart. It’s the birthplace of bossa nova, it’s where our very own Joe Davis fell in love with the Brazilian music he so dearly shares with the world and it’s where yours truly comes from. So, with a great deal of homesickness, it was very heart-warming to see Michael portraying such a special place in the best of lights: stunning scenery, happy people, incredible social developments and all that warmth. Unfortunately, Rio and, well, Brazil, is not entirely open and liberal, but it surely has come a long way.

As we learnt, not just of beaches and football is Rio made of.

Bossa Nova was one of the movements which influenced Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) the most. A fusion of samba and jazz, it was made popular around the mid to late-50s by some of the greatest Brazilian musicians: João Gilberto, Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes.

It was around the 60s that some of the musicians who had joined the movement, like Marcos Valle and Edu Lobo, started questioning the heavy influence of American jazz and proposed that bossa nova incorporated more samba, a sound closer to home.

A lot of other artists keen on that new ideology started mixing their music with those of sambistas, which saw that 50s bossa give way to its second generation: the mid-60s MPB, which highlighted greatly acclaimed artists such as Chico Buarque and Elis Regina.

This week’s episode already brought an extensive soundtrack filled with some of the most iconic tunes in Brazilian music history but, since it was so special to us, we thought we’d give you a treat and added loads more.

As usual, any comments or suggestions are welcome. Just email Liv.” [update: email Liv here]


 

“BRAZIL WITH MICHAEL PALIN – BBC1 14/11/12

Next stop: back to London. Unless, that is, you got ultimately inspired by the show and gave yourself a ticket to Brazil for Christmas!

As Michael Palin’s journey through Brazil ends, so does our soundtrack. Actually, not really. We’re a record company! Do keep up-to-date with our news and releases. Facebook, Twitter, website, DJ decks, airwaves…we’re everywhere! You might even find us on MySpace! Just go pass the spider webs and we’re just around behind the cloud of dust.

The thing with this last episode is that the deep south, for example, is not so deep music-wise so there’s not that much we can say regarding the music scene around that end. We can, however, provide a few mentions about São Paulo.

Not just of skyscrapers, traffic jams and Japanese colonies is São Paulo made of. Their nightlife is extremely popular not just in Brazil, but worldwide. There’s a big electronic scene, it’s a definite stop for international acts playing in the country and the home of various bands from every genre imaginable, from pagode to skater rock, boy bands, metal and even forró!

Non-Brazilians might actually recognise some house names like Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS), who had a strong presence in the British indie music scene a few years ago, the original Os Mutantes, with their psychedelic rock and their very own Rita Lee, who, among several studio albums and a MTV Unplugged under her belt, also released a collection of Beatles covers.

Let’s not forget the newcomer, Criolo, whose music has been enchanting not just Brazilians, but have crossed the ocean over to these shores where the poet-rapper has graced the pages of British mags and newspapers as well as the stages.

This last playlist will be, I believe, quite random.

You can find all the others on our Spotify account faroutrecordings plus many more that we’ve compiled dividing our catalogue to make it easier for our listeners to find their favourites. And speaking of favourites, we’ve got a collaborative playlist called “Far Out fan faves” where you’re more than welcome to add the best Far Out tunes in your opinion. Add away and feel free to subscribe to any of them, especially our “NEW RELEASES” one that we regularly update.

Now, would someone please let Javier Bardem know his long lost twin was found on the train with Michael?”

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