Brazil is a country in transformation, still finding its feet after years of dictatorship and repression. Here are the ten artists who are helping the country rediscover its identity.
By Russ Slater
Ocupai (Mais Um Discos, 2014)
Brazil has discovered Afrobeat in a big way and one of the finest examples are São Paulo’s Bixiga 70, a band that has already started to break out of their genre confines by adding disco, Ethio-jazz and melodies from Brazilian spirituals into the mix.
Batuk Freak (Mr Bongo, 2014)
The first female rapper to break-out of Brazil has done so through mashing up heavy beats, north-eastern folklore and the latest dance-floor rhythms, while making sure that her own powerful voice still steals the show. (Reviewed in #100.)
Nó Na Orelha (Sterns, 2011)
With a musicality that had rarely been heard previously in Brazilian hip-hop, this album made Criolo one of the biggest new stars in the country, his socially-aware songs speaking to the same generation protesting against the excesses of the World Cup.
Arrocha (Six Degrees, 2012)
Previously one of the most in-demand drummers in Brazil, Arrocha completed Curumin’s transformation to bonafide star. His modern blend of hip-hop, reggae and electronic beats is anchored by a real knack for timeless pop hooks that sound both familiar and new.
Ela (Six Degrees, 2013)
Time spent living in both Buenos Aires and Paris has clearly impacted the first album from this Brazilian-born cellist and singer; her songs are tender, hushed, more European chanson than anything South American.
Feras Miticas (Vampisoul, 2014)
On their second album Garotas Suecas refined the Os Mutantes-inspired garage rock of their debut with stabs at FM pop and rock. While their reasons may be commercially-inspired, the results are nonetheless full of their customary playfulness and melodicism.
Feitiço Caboclo (Mais Um Discos, 2014)
Discovered five years ago at the ripe age of 70 singing at a local dance in north-eastern Brazil, Onete’s rise has been meteoric with her slower version of the hip-twisting carimbó rhythm making her one of the hottest new artists in Brazil. Not bad for a 75-year-old!
74 Club (Far Out Recordings, 2013)
There is something inherently fun about the Otis Trio’s swinging take on jazz. In fact, there is rarely a dull moment on this debut as the five-piece – they’ve already extended from a trio – give Brazilian jazz a much-needed injection of life.
The Invention of Colour (Ajabu!, 2013)
Santana’s dreamy, hypnotic debut earned him a Top of the World in #94, as well as many comparisons to Nick Drake. Featuring musicians from all over the world – including Mayra Andrade and Maher Cissoko – Santana’s sound is singular, seductive and full of soul.
Efêmera (Totolo, 2011)
It was clear that Brazil had a distinctive new chanteuse as soon as Tulipa Ruiz’s melodic, undulating voice trickled out of the speakers on this glorious debut. The simple yet effective production is the perfect backdrop for Tulipa’s versatile delivery. (Reviewed in #75.)
This article originally appeared in Songlines issue No 101 (July 2014)