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?”

The value of soundtracks

I’ve been meaning to write about soundtracks for a long time but there’s just so much to consider, I never thought I could do the subject justice, but Synchtank recently shared this Mental Floss article on Facebook on how important soundtracks are for movies that it inspired me to share a few other thoughts about it.

Last month I went to a special preview of Richard Linklater‘s latest movie “Everybody Wants Some” followed by a Q&A with the man himself at Brixton’s Ritzy and somebody asked IMG_1777him about soundtracks and how he goes about putting them together.

He talked about how the one for this movie in particular was made of mainly the songs he used to listen to when in college in the 80s – where and when the movie takes place – and that they usually start with about 200 tracks, but since licensing is both expensive and sometimes not approved, that helps the team narrow it down.

The funny thing was when he talked about the need to change a song because the one originally picked is too above the budget

“You can’t get Michael Jackson, so you get Jermaine Jackson!”

Picking a song for a scene, whether it’s a movie, TV show or even an ad, is as important as casting the right actor. A song is paramount to conveying a certain message or emotion to the audience and it is often more memorable than anything else in the video.

Another gem from Synchtank was this episode of their SynchStories podcast I listened to a few months ago where they interviewed music supervisor Thomas Golubič (Breaking Bad).

“Many people who tried to get into music supervision but don’t quite make it is because they are ultimately champions of music but not of storytelling”

He reveals the process of understanding a character/story and finding and picking the right tracks to match them:

“if you can really think in terms of the story and the characters and get a sense of what is really truthful to those characters…as you get to know them [characters], you hope that you can kind of navigate the truth of who they are with music”

There’s a lot more to it and I highly recommend you actually listen to the whole interview if you’re interested in the subject.

From an audience point of view, not only it helps us connect with a scene, a character, a storyline, but it often introduces us to new music we might otherwise never hear about. How many artists have you discovered through soundtracks? I don’t know about you, but my list is pretty endless.

Dawson’s Creek, The Craft, Romeo + Juliet, Cruel Intentiotheocns (can you listen to Bittersweet Symphony and NOT picture Reese Witherspoon driving away?), The OC and its gazillion Mixes, Gossip Girl. These are just a few of the most popular soundtracks that had some of its songs be as important as the actors playing the scene they soundtracked.

Recently a dear teenage human in my life made me watch Pretty Little Liars (I tell ya, getting hooked on a show that is already going to season 7 is a big mistake if you had any kind of life plan, even if it’s just showering and going for a Sunday brunch!). As the episodes went on, I realised my constant Shazam‘ing was getting in the way of helping the girls find out who pll-introA was (sorry, you’ve got to watch it to get this one), so I went on good ol’ Spotify and quickly found a playlist with pretty much all of the songs featured in the show. That’s  two of my favourite things in the world – soundtracks AND playlists – coming together and beautifully making life sweeter. But I’ll leave the playlist subject for another day as it deserves a whole other long post of its own.

For the moment I’ll leave you with ABC‘s PLL soundtrack, which also inspired this post but I’ll try to put an “OST” playlist together at some point as there are many other shows and movies also deserving of the spotlight.

More on soundtracks:

Eurovision is, indeed, about politics and that’s what makes it great!

As a non-European, I wasn’t very much aware of what the Eurovision Song Contest was until moving to these shores and thought the history was very cool (music doing what it does best: bringing people together. In this case, during the war – times worse than most of us in the West have got now with Trump and all). However, I didn’t get much into it until I happened to watch it the year of Conchita’s win, when I saw exactly that: music bringing people together to show homophobes that they’re assholes and, fortunately, a minority.

I’ve read so many people complaining about Ukraine winning it last night because people should vote for the best song, not the person nor the country…granted, it is a bit like the X Factor and such as in what’s judged is not the music per se. In this case, though, songs and performers represent their countries and their struggles and voting is used to show solidarity so I don’t really see what’s wrong with that. The issue around Crimea hasn’t been covered in the news since f*ck knows when! and millions of people last night got to have a bit of a refresher. I felt bad for the Russian team, the singer dude was so emotional and, although the song wasn’t great either, the stunt he pulled off required serious skills. Nonetheless, having Ukraine beat the Russians was a big slap in Putin’s face from the rest of Europe. Ukraine could’ve sung the Macarena as far as I’m concerned and I still would’ve been happy for the win.

But politics aside, in my (and millions of others!) heart, Justin Timberlake obviously won all the points! 🇺🇸

From a music business point of view, I think this tweet from Popjustice sums it up quite nicely:

Other than that, the hosts were nothing short of greatly entertaining! Especially when they taught us how to write a hit song – they really know their stuff! Probably why Sweden has so many great bands and some of the world’s top songwriters! (here’s looking at you, Max Martin)

Fun fact: in 1988, it was Celine Dion who represented Switzerland – and won! 🇨🇭

Aaaaand…more playlists!

Slowly I’ve been updating this website with more music news, soundtracks and the latest pop culture tips (I’ve been meaning to talk about the Another Round podcast for 2 months now!) but I’ve got a Master thesis to write so it’ll take some time.

However, this whole weekly playlist thing I’ve been doing for work has got me really pumped and reminded me of this project I did for Far Out Recordings a few years ago when the BBC broadcasted the travel show “Brazil with Michael Palin”.

It was a 4-episode series where Michael travelled around Brazil and talked about a particular region each episode and, the morning after every show, I wrote about the music scene of said region and made a playlist with the songs that featured on the previous night’s episode and added others by artists from the same area.

You can now read all full texts and check out the playlists right here!

It was one of my favourite things to do during my time at Far Out, we got amazing feedback at the time and even The Telegraph’s Rob Fitzpatrick retweet one of our texts saying something along the lines of “loving it!” – it made my day!

Little boxes on the hillside…Weeds

This is a great example of sync done right.

It’s funny/sad how a song from the 60s is still so accurate today in 2014. Two.Thousand.FOURTEEN. And the video to which it was synched was not only a perfect reflection of life (at least in the Western world!), but also did a pristine job in representing life in the fictional town of Agrestic. At least in the first few episodes when everyone’s madness hadn’t yet been uncovered…

The last few seasons were kind of stupid, especially that whole Mexican plot. “Weeds” went from taking the piss out of the status quo to focusing on Nancy’s bad decisions – she wasn’t even the cool, smart, witty Nancy from the beginning anymore.

*FUN FACT: Shane (Alexander Gould), that cute little boy who grew up to *SPOILER ALERT* defend his mother’s honour at any price, was also the voice of Nemo in Finding Nemo.

Advice of the day:

I haven’t posted anything in a million years even if I’ve written about various things happening in the music industry, in London, in life. Just mentally.

The one thought that’s been with me every single day for a long time now is: whatever you do, wherever you work, make sure you understand at least a bit of everything else that’s of someone else’s responsibility, especially – but not exclusively – if it affects your job. Because people suck and don’t do what they have to do, when they have to do.

Now it’s a Thursday night baby and I’m alive. (Thanks, Lena Dunham, we can just use that phrase forever for any day of the week.) And by alive I mean “Scandal” and “Big Bang Theory” are finally back.

You know, these show breaks used to be just for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was none of this long break business back in the days!

Life’s many mysteries: fun. – “Sight of the Sun”

How does this only have 750k views?

This song cannot be bought alone on iTunes, nor is it available on Spotify and I don’t want the Girls soundtrack – as good as it is! I mean, Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”. AAAAAND it’s not available for streaming on SoundCloud anymore. So this is basically THE way to listen to it.

And it’s so good.