Posts Tagged ‘criolo’

Playlist: Hip-hop across the Americas

Posted on July 19th, 2016 in Features, Recent posts by .


Since its humble beginnings in downtown New York, hip-hop has become one of the United States’ biggest cultural exports. The music has brought forth innumerable scenes and provided a voice to the politically disenfranchised across the globe. It bears particular significance across Latin America owing to a geographical proximity that has seen a body of work emerge holding hip-hop at its core whilst possessing an expansive range of regional influences. This fervent musical dialogue is documented here, with appearances from both US artists who possess Latin American ancestry and tracks from the most vibrant local scenes south of Tijuana. (Playlist by Alex de Lacey for Songlines. Photo of Criolo by Caroline Bittencourt).

Tags: , , .

Criolo – Soul Searching

Posted on August 21st, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .


The hugely popular Brazilian rap artist Criolo is refreshingly self-effacing when he meets Russ Slater to talk about his work and the problems facing Brazil

In the space of just a few years Criolo has become one of the most important musicians in Brazil. His music, as well as his passionate personality, has become synonymous with Brazil’s fight against inequality, corruption and glorified overspending that reached a head in 2014 with the World Cup arriving on Brazilian shores.

It was 2011 that Criolo first came to people’s attentions when his second album, Nó Na Orelha (In the Ear, reviewed in #86), seemingly came out of nowhere, arriving at first as a free download from his website. Despite coming from a rap background, the record saw Criolo sing samba, reggae, Afrobeat and even a ballad in the shape of ‘Não Existe Amor em SP’ (Love Doesn’t Exist in São Paulo), a hauntingly poetic account of feeling alone in the Brazilian megalopolis. It chimed with everyone in Brazil: the public, the critics and even the country’s musical royalty – Criolo sang the song as a duet with Caetano Veloso at MTV Brasil’s VMA awards.

It took three years before Criolo followed up with another release – Nó Na Orelha’s success afforded him the opportunity to tour around the entirety of Brazil, as well as South America, North America and Europe. Convoque Seu Buda (Summon Your Buddha) arrived at the end of 2014, again first as a free download (a clear act of anti-consumerism) before later getting its official release (reviewed in #106).

There’s an undoubted dichotomy between Criolo in person and Criolo the ‘star.’ Shuffling towards me for our interview in a hotel reception, before whispering his greetings and waiting for me to show him to a seat, it’s hard to imagine a more self-effacing presence. It’s when he begins to speak that you understand his power as an artist, his whisper soon turning into a roar as he seemingly searches his soul for the most honest answer to every one of my inquiries.

One of the surprising truths that emerges is that making another album was never a certainty. “Nó Na Orelha brought me much happiness,” says Criolo, “but when we decided to make Convoque Seu Buda, I was full of questions. Why did I need to create a new album? Since Nó Na Orelha had already given me more happiness than I had ever imagined, I did not see the necessity to record another album. After all, living and creating songs goes beyond just making an album.” Thankfully, he had a change of heart. “In the end I did it because I felt so much gratitude for the people who helped me in life, and I really wanted to continue to express myself in song.”

Whereas he describes Nó Na Orelha as “a personal record, a recording of songs for myself and my family,” Convoque operates with a broader perspective. “Brazil is experiencing a very difficult time and I wanted to express myself…” he explains before modestly adding “…even though nobody had asked my opinion.” This addressing of Brazil’s issues can be felt most keenly on ‘Cartão de Visita’ (Business Card) where he satirises consumerism in a fashion similar to Bret Easton Ellis in American Psycho, and ‘Casa de Papelão’ (Cardboard House) that vividly depicts the drug problems within an area of São Paulo known colloquially as Cracolândia (Crackland).

Though some Brazilian rappers – such as Racionais MC’s and Marcelo D2 – have enjoyed substantial success within Brazil, and even internationally – Criolo differentiated himself by using a live band in the studio. This has allowed for him to work with a wide-ranging spectrum of styles, with tracks on the new album showing elements of jazz, disco and even brega (Brazilian pop), on the infectious ‘Pegue Pra Ela’. Speaking of his relationship with producers Marcelo Cabral and Daniel Ganjaman and the development of his music, he says: “we created a unified sound that has matured over the three years that we’ve been on the road together.” This was clear at their London show where a stripped-down version of his band – there was no room for a horn section or his hype man, DJ Dandan – captivated the crowd, who hung on Criolo’s every word, even though many of them were in Portuguese.

Criolo’s unique perspective on Brazilian life, which feels even more pronounced within the realms of popular music, makes more sense when considering his backstory. His parents were migrants from the north-east of Brazil who had moved to São Paulo in the hope of better opportunities. They made their home in Grajaú, a neighbourhood that was singled out as the worst in São Paulo by the newspaper Folha de São Paulo in 2013. It was here that Criolo grew up, and where he got to see Brazil’s inequality and violence firsthand. It was also where he developed his love for rap. “In 1987 I heard a song on the radio which was entirely in verses, and the presenter said that it was called rap, so I started to rap. I really identified with the text of rap because it spoke about things from the neighbourhood, everyday things, and it really seemed like they were talking about my neighbourhood, my street.”

“Singing comes from within, from the heart, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an audience”

Two years later the young Criolo, or simply Kleber as he was known then, had the opportunity to perform his verses of rap to an audience, and made his singing debut at the age of 13 in 1989. It wouldn’t be until 2006 that Criolo released his first album, a heavily rap-orientated affair that gained him a loyal following in São Paulo’s underground rap movement. I’m curious to ask Criolo what happened in the intervening years. “I sung in loads of places,” he tells me, “in schools, churches, college dances, in the street… but I didn’t have the resources to record a CD.” Then comes another of his profound statements: “The desire to sing, regardless of whether somebody has a good voice, is something that comes from your soul. You don’t sing because you want to be recognised, or you want an audience, or you want to record an album. You record an album because you sing. It is important not to reverse the order of things. I could have not recorded a single album in my entire life and I’d still be singing every day. Singing comes from within, from the heart, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an audience – you just want to express yourself and tell a story.”

These stories have been easy to come by in Brazil over the past two years, with the protests erupting in 2013 and 2014 when the World Cup and its precursory tournament, the Confederations Cup, provided the perfect platforms for Brazilians to get their voice heard. I ask Criolo if the protests changed anything in Grajaú, where he still lives. His answer reveals how his optimism is shaped by reality: “No, despite how much suffering there is there, nothing changed. [It’s hard] to change a country as big as Brazil, which you have to think of as a continent. [But] I think it’s beautiful to see the people going to the street, it was historic.” So what good did the protests achieve? “For me the great thing about what happened in 2013 was to make people think. Whether we understand our history or not, it’s more about talking and thinking about this social construct, that is the wonderful thing, independent of what class you have or what has been refused you.”

Criolo is now 39 years old. His perspective on life puts him in an enviable position. He’s not afraid of telling the truth, of releasing his albums for free or rubbing the big corporations up the wrong way. Seemingly, he’s also not worried about releasing another album, but then, as is clear from our conversation, he is deeply worried about Brazil and his fellow people, and you imagine that will always be the catalyst for Criolo to take the stage and tell his stories.

I finish the interview by asking Criolo if his music had a message. “I don’t know, maybe,” he says, before scanning his soul one last time: “You should not disconnect yourself from positivity. You should not disconnect yourself from wanting something good. Want a better world. Grow with us. I hope that the message is something like this.”

Criolo’s Recordings

Nó Na OrelhaNó Na Orelha

(Sterns Music)

Since Nó Na Orelha was released in Brazil, the São Paulo rapper Criolo has become one of the most important new voices in Brazilian music. Memorable TV interviews and appearances with cultural icons like Caetano Veloso have cemented his reputation, but in truth the music speaks for itself. By teaming up with some of São Paulo’s finest musicians, Criolo has taken Brazilian rap out of its sample-based straitjacket, incorporating Afro-beat (on ‘Bogotá’), samba (‘Linha de Frente’) and dub (‘Samba Sambei’). Brought up in one of São Paulo’s toughest neighbourhoods, he marries this broad musical vocabulary with an articulate honesty that speak of Brazil’s social problems. His lyrics are both clear and universal: the simmering ballad ‘Não Existe Amor Em SP’ directly states that ‘love doesn’t exist in São Paulo’, but it’s a message that could apply to favelas right across Brazil, especially with lines that translate as ‘No need to die to see God/No need to suffer to know what is best for you.’ Musically, the highlight of the album is ‘Mariô’, an Afro-inspired call-and-response number with a deep bass riff. Lyrically the prize would go to ‘Subirusdoistiozin’ and its depiction of life on São Paulo’s streets. Yet right across Nó Na Orelha there is no let-up, with each track bringing something new to proceedings. Brazilian music has a new star. Russ Slater

Convoque Seu BudaConvoque Seu Buda

(Sterns Music)

Since the release of his last album, Nó Na Orelha, Criolo has arguably become the most important new artist in Brazil. Here is a rapper from a poor São Paulo neighbourhood, speaking candidly about his upbringing and life in Brazil, but doing so in such a poetic and existential manner that his appeal has been widespread. The fact that he sings just as much as he raps means that this artist is not just for hip-hop fans – though it’s a fierce rap that opens the album. The title-track, translating as ‘Summon Your Buddha’, is pure hip-hop and sets the spirit of the album with ferocious lyrics about violence, guns and inequality. It’s easy to see why Criolo is held up as an icon by the same Brazilians who protested during the World Cup protests.

Yet, this is only one side of Criolo. On highlights such as ‘Pegue Pra Ela’ and ‘Casa de Papelão’ he offers up hope on tracks that are respectively influenced by pop and jazz. Diversions into pagode, reggae and 80s funk (on the lighthearted ‘Cartão de Visita’) complete a diverse album that is sure to fuel Criolo’s growing stature, both in Brazil and around the world. Russ Slater

Photo of Criolo by Caroline Bittencourt

This article originally appeared in Songlines #109. Subscribe to Songlines

Tags: , .

WOMAD 2015: Our 10 Recommendations

Posted on July 22nd, 2015 in Features, Live, Recent posts by .



Criolo, photographed by Caroline Bittencourt

As the Songlines team get ready for the upcoming weekend, they share some of their recommendations

With mere hours between us and WOMAD festival, all of us at Songlines HQ cannot wait to get onsite for this celebration of world music. In anticipation, editor Jo Frost, deputy editor Alexandra Petropoulos, news editor Edward Craggs, contributor Alex de Lacey and intern Elicia Casey-Winter have selected the ten bands we’re most looking forward to this weekend.

And don’t forget that we have an unprecedented number of CD signings at the Songlines stands this weekend, so don’t miss your chance to say hello to some of your favourite artists – and Songlines team members! Find out more about Songlines at WOMAD.

Molotov Jukebox 
– Friday, Open Air Stage, 1pm
This band’s own brand of ‘tropical urban Gypsy’ music is sure to bring out the sunshine this weekend… even if only metaphorically. ECW

Kapela Maliszow
– Friday, BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage, 2pm
This family trio – made up of father Jan Malisz, son Kacper and daughter Zuzanna – breathe a delightful new life into Polish traditional music, and all on homemade instruments! AP

– Friday, Big Red Tent, 3pm
These guys mix up Middle Eastern sounds with an urban flare while their lyrics call for freedom and equality; it’s danceable music with a conscience. AP

Totó la Momposina 
 Friday, Open Air Stage, 3pm
The doyenne of Afro-Colombian song makes a long-awaited return to the UK. JF

Tal National
 – Friday, Open Air Stage, 5pm
Looking forward to checking out this band and their alternative, Nigerien take on the desert blues sound. JF

– Friday, BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage, 10:30pm
Lots of buzz about this French-Cuban sister duo and their hypnotic Cuban electronic mix, so keen to experience them live.  JF

 – Saturday, Open Air Stage, 3pm
Having rapidly become one of the most important musicians in Brazil, the São Paolo rapper’s hard-hitting lyrics and stage prowess are not to be missed. EC

Hannah Peel 
– Saturday, Bowers & Wilkins Sound System, 6pm
I first heard Hannah Peel sing at Green Man Festival in 2011 accompanied solely by her music box. Since then she’s released a solo album, two EPs, and collaborated on The Magnetic North’s project that celebrated the music of Orkney. ADL

The Very Best 
– Saturday, Big Red Tent, 7pm
I can’t think of a better way to kick-start Saturday evening than with the euphoric groove of this duo of Johan Hugo and Malawian Esau Mwamwaya. EC

Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor
 – Saturday, Open Air Stage, 9:30pm
This celebration of the elusive Nigerian funk maestro follows the rediscovery of his work on Who is William Onyeabor? released by David Byrne’s imprint Luaka Bop in 2013. Already confirmed to perform are legendary saxophonist Charles Lloyd and American-Sudanese artist Sinkane, with a whole host of guests still to be announced! ADL

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

New issue (July 2015, #109) on sale now!

Posted on June 12th, 2015 in News, Recent posts by .


Senegal’s free spirit, Cheikh Lô, and Buena Vista Social Club’s veterans Eliades Ochoa and Omara Portuondo

The July 2015 (#109) edition is on sale in the UK from today. The free exclusive 15-track covermount CD features ten tracks from our latest Top of the World albums and a guest playlist by soul singer Joss Stone.

Featured on the Top of the World CD are new tracks from kora player Seckou Keita, multi-instrumentalist Efrén López and Cheikh Lô. 

This issue also includes…

• Cheikh Lô – Senegalese singer talks with Peter Culshaw in Dakar about his spiritual antidote to hardline Islam.
• Le Vent du Nord – The progressive French-Canadian folk group talk about keeping Québécois traditions alive.
• Omara Portuondo & Eliades Ochoa– We chat to the Cuban veterans, and conclude that there is still plenty of life left in the old BVSC stalwarts…
• Criolo – The popular Brazilian rapper talks with Russ Slater about the problems facing Brazil.
• Rajasthani Folk Music – Traditional musicians are devising inventive ways to find new audiences in the Indian state.

• Beginner’s Guide: music star Juan Luis Guerra.
• My World: A playlist and interview with soul singer Joss Stone.
• Introducing… Daymé Arocena and Keston Cobblers Club.
• Spotlight on the Lyre of Ur.
• Quick Fire: Natasha Solomons, James Shepard & Nancy Kerr.
• What’s New, including the EtnoKraków Festival, Jenny Hill’s Songs of Separation Project, and Larmer Tree Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary.
• The Songlines Essential 10 Cuban albums.
• Reviews of the latest CD, book and world cinema releases.

Buy the new issue here.

Tags: , , , , , .

« Older Entries