Thursday, 26 June 2014

Brasilian musical highlights

It's taken to the knock out stages of the World Cup in Brazil for me to collate a beginners guide to the vast depths of Brazilian music that is available that I can begin to get my head around to share. Outside of the UK and America, I'm hard pushed to think of one country that has such a rich musical heritage and volume of recorded music.

I always liked Brazilian music from the late 90s when I picked up a couple of the Mr Bongo compilations and later Azymuth albums and mixes. Brazilian music covers such a diverse base of Jazz, Samba, Bossa, lounge, Tropicalismo, MBP, Funk Carioca and many more sub-genres. And I don't even speak much Portugese! However, I'm trying to still learn a little after my first visit there in 2012. Thanks to Rodrigo, Thiago, Patricia, Anje and others for trying to help teach the language!

Trying to get started on explaining the rich musical heritage would challenge the most talented musical historian - which I'm not nor claim to be. But I'm a passionate enthusiast for Brazilian artists and with the country being beamed into my house daily with the World Cup and various UK artists playing Brazilian music on TV and radio, the time seems right to try and pass on what I've picked up in the last 2 years in case you want to find out more. This is aimed to be a living repository of musical history and mixes for you to get your teeth into. So if you have any mixes that I've missed that you think are 'must have', please get in contact so I can add.

Brasil Brasil! Was a great series on the History of Brazilian music on BBC4 (now on YouTube):

As ever, the RBMA have in-depth 1 to 1's with the artists themselves that are worth checking out. Red Bull Music Academy Brazilian artists Fireside chat show is a series of 1 hour shows interviewing key artists from the country whilst showcasing their musical career. These include:

Airto Lindsay
Arthur Verocai
David Nerattini
Eumir Deodato
Gilberto Gil
Marcos Valle
Milton Nascimento
Os Mutantes
Sergio Mendes
Tom Ze 
Toninho Zorta

Having dug around a number of collections, spoken with Aaron Fitzgerald and met Kym and Anje from 'The view from Madelines Couch' (an Australian Brazilian music group we met in Rio), I pulled together a comp of the Brazilian music that left a dent on me covering music from the 60s to the present day.

My mix on Spotify


I then went to the source! As well as the 'Gilles Peterson in Brazil' compilations, he's been all over TV and radio promoting artists from the country. The man played a big role in turning me on to Brazilian music about 10 years ago. What I provide here and below are some highlights from him and then other UK/European DJs...

DJ Nuts mix: Dj Nuts from Brasil

R1 Essential mix

Gilles Peterson NTS mix

Beyond Peterson, here are some friends and aficionados Brazil mixes to enjoy:

Aaron Fitzgerald/One Vice left

Luke Howard

Sassy J
Swiss DJ, part of the Patchworks collective delivers 2 great mixes:

Floating Points Brazil mix

Dom Servini Brazilian Special

And finally... An out there Brazilian boogie mix by Lincoln Olivetti

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Worldwide 2013 festival, Sete

For the third year in a row we made it to Sete, in the South of France, for Gilles Peterson's Worldwide festival. For a small festival - about three/four thousand people - it packs a punch with both headline acts (e.g. Raphael Saadiq, Gregory Porter, DJ Harvey, Little Dragon, James Blake, Laurent Garnier) and the lesser-known acts (e.g. Kinono Number 1, Dam Funk, Fatima, Jon Sa Trixa, Koreless) we've seen over the years. Held in a pretty town and bathed in sunshine, the festival uses across a number of venues. It's become a fixture in our calendar for a French and musical fix each July.

This year the festival took place across 7 whole days - a marathon effort if you try to make it all. Even with my huge musical appetite, it was a case of picking and choosing what to go and see. Particularly as for the first 5 days we were staying 10km out of town! This gave us the chance to hire bikes and see more than just the town and the festival. If you're going I really recommend getting some wheels. The roads aren't too full of crazy French drivers, and for most of the time, you can ride on purpose built cycle paths to get around. It was the intention of a friend of mine and me to make it to Stage 7 of the Tour de France that was passing nearby on the Friday morning. But given Thursday was the heaviest line up of acts we wanted to see we unfortunately didn't make it.

Having flown in, got our accommodation and hopped in a cab to the amazing Theatre de la Mer, we managed to catch all of Floating Points and Four Tet DJing back to back against the backdrop of the Mediterranean (credit to Four Tet for the picture!). Playing their usual mix of jazz, house and oddball records, it was a great start to show our first time Worldwide friends what the atmosphere and location was like. The weather wasn't great at that part of the week but it was warm enough to still be out in shorts and t-shirts at two in the morning. Bliss!

Opening street party - C.R.A.C

   Day 2: Tuesday: having gone to pick up our bikes in the nearby town of Marseillan, we went to catch the end of Kyodai's set at the annual party in front of the regional contemporary art museum in the centre of Sete. We only made it across the harbour to a bar to hear the last few songs before readying ourselves for another night at the Theatre de la Mer. As you can see from my picture from two years ago, it's a great location and set up with fishing boats and the town framing the open plaza where DJ Oil, Night Drugs and Kyodai played.

After a great seafood dinner, we headed up to the theatre and arrived in time to see Ady Suleiman's acoustic set. Having heard his Maida Vale Session, we were looking forward to hearing him perform in the enviable sunset slot and he didn't disappoint. After playing Glastonbury the previous week, singing barefoot in the Languedoc sun, he nailed his 45 minutes whipping the crowd up before Laura Mvula's set. Coming off the back of 3 performances at Glastonbury and a lot of live coverage in the UK, her uber slick band was even better than expected. For me it was the best thing we'd seen. Laura's voice was strong and beautiful and perfectly programmed for 10pm before GP came on to DJ till 3. We dropped out by 2 to save ourselves for the rest of the week.

Francois K & Gilles Peterson
Wednesday: Day 3: Got down to the beach in time to catch Simbad on a bit of an overcast afternoon. Having been where Carl Cox played one of the all time Worldwide moments last year, we had high expectations for Francois K DJing. Everyone was asking what he was going to play, and its fair to say he played across the board. Everything from reggae, house, down tempo to even some drum and bass made it into his 3 hours. Maybe it was the mood of the sky and feeling tired, but I wasn't really feeling the music as much as expected, but as the sun got a little brighter towards the end of his set and we got to the front to dance, the last 20 minutes were more memorable. 

Off from the beach back to town for more seafood and we got into the Theatre de la Mer half way through Heliocentrics set. Malcolm Catto's band of musicians was good, but the scene-stealers for the night were Chris Dave and the Drumheadz. A friend had recommended to me that if I saw one act this year on the bill; it had to be these guys.

Isaiah Sharkey of Chris Dave & the Drumheadz
Playing across the board from Afrobeat to Jimi Hendrix and freeform jazz, they were tight and Chris Dave showed why he's one of the most in demand drummers in the World. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Thursday: Day 4: Having seen Sassy J play an awesome set at Sonar RBMA in 2007, I was really looking forward to hearing what she would drop at the beach in the headline slot on Thursday afternoon. It was a much warmer day than Wednesday, but the set was pitched at the right tempo and vibe for the conditions. Anna and I were really pleased to hear Azymuth's 'Jazz Carnival' having seen them the week before in Manchester and Sassy finished with a nice touch by playing Omar as her last record. The London man performing later at the St Christ venue on the edge of the town after the beach party closed for the evening.
Omar live - Check the Bowie T!
Omar & Lex with Anna
Big up from Omar 
Lefto warmed up before Omar's set, which covered the best tracks of his 25 year career. His voice was awesome, the band slick and he worked the crowd well with plenty of energy as the sun set. After the show we met him and he is one of the most laid back and genuine people you can meet.

Acid Arab

After Omar's set it was hoped that we would be watching Omar Souleyman, but the Syrian musician was held up by Visa problems leaving his homeland. Acid Arab DJed and they were the act of the festival I knew little about but was most impressed on catching. Definitely want to see them again. Mixing electronic and Arabic tunes deftly in a completely innovative way. After that it was Lefto DJing once more, warming up for Mount Kimbie, whose set 2 years ago I was glad to have seen but wasn't blown away by. With a new album and more tour time behind them, Kai and Dominic really have moved on and progressed. This left the rest of the evening to Todd Terje to play his neat, clean mixes  through the great Funktion 1 system. Playing festival favourite Inspector Norse and his latest Strandbar single amongst his usual cosmic disco, it was a great way to end the longest musical day we'd had.

A gent and full of chat - Mala in Cuba
Friday: Day 5: After a lie in, we skipped the beach and after dinner got to St Christ for Marcos Valle just in time for the first song, O Fabuloso Fittipaldi. After absorbing as much Brazilian music as possible in the last year via our first trip to the country, Marcos was the act at St Christ we were most keen on seeing. As seems to be the way with Brazilian acts, Valle and his band took their time building the set before a big finale of carnival rhythms, lights and piano galore. En route, Lucas Santanna joined the band for 4 songs, a real treat. We look forward to seeing him do his solo work next time he's in Europe, but it was fantastic to see the legend that is Marcos Valle celebrating 50 years of making music play - a real pro. We took a breather arriving back to hear Simbad play a killer warm up set before getting to the front to see Mala in Cuba live for the first time. With 2 Cuban percussionists accompanying throughout, Mala appearing behind a bank of equipment that wouldn't be out of place on the Starship Enterprise. He translated his eponymous album brilliantly with the crowd appreciating the mix of bass heaviness with traditional Cuban rhythms. By the time DJ Marky came on, we were bushed and realising a long night and trip home would knacker us for Saturday, we  took to the wheels once more. Any reviews of his set with MC Stamina gratefully welcomed.

Saturday: Day 6: Having moved from the outskirts of town to a newer, nearer place on Mont St Clair, we made it to the beach for the last 2 hours of Thristian Boiler room, who played a great set. The day was the hottest we'd experienced in 3 years of Worldwide as the weekend warmed up across Europe. We got to St Christ in time to see the Satincoco orchestra play. Again, little known about them but super impressed by their musicianship as the sun set. As the crowd filled up, the orchestra pleased everyone by playing a version of 4 Hero's mix of Black gold of the sun, which seemed apt for both the festival and time of day. Some of the group stayed on stage to accompany Thundercat and his band to play songs from 'The golden age...' and 'apocalypse' with his awesome customised 6 stringed bass. Playing more loosely than on record, some of the tracks were barely recognisable to the originals. Of any artist this year, I was most excited by Thundercat's appearance at the Worldwide. So it was great after the performance to be able to meet the Cat and get a picture with him. His tattoos were a sight to behold - every character from the show down his left arm!

We got back to the main stage in time to see Kenny Dope being introduced on his birthday and the Master at Work played a great party set of hip hop and house. Peterson and Lefto came on stage to present Mr Gonzalez with a birthday cake and the crowd dutifully sung Happy birthday to toast a great set.

We managed to catch a short part of Machinedrum's Jets project, which sounded great, but the tiredness beat us as we wound our way up to our new accommodation, creeping into the B & B at about 5... Breakfast was a quiet affair but was soothed by awesome views across Mont St Clair, along the coast towards Bezier with the Mediterranean shimmering in the sun.
We replaced 20ks of daily cycling with a steep hill to negotiate, but as it was lined with jasmine, bouganvilla, figs and pine, it was a great smelling way to get to the music.

View from the Chambre D'Hote was magnifique!
Final day of the festival: Sunday 7th 2013
Got more rest overnight and went for lunch before hitting the beach. Found a bar showing Murray & Djokovic in the final of Wimbledon. Anna and I being tennis nuts couldn't miss it, though I was rooting for a swift conclusion to the game so I could catch the final beach party. Last years with GP and friends was brilliant, and after Murray managed to see off Djokovic we dashed to la plage to catch the last couple of tracks. The day had been a scorcher, and being a pale Brit, I may have benefitted from not being out in the midday sun.... That's what I told myself anyway!

Moving back to St Christ for the evening, we arrived as Hiatus Kaiyote hit the stage. Technically brilliant and playing their best known song 'Nakamarra' - I couldn't get into the rest of their set as much as I wanted to. Noze played a bonkers electro/oompah/oddball set that excited the crowd, particularly the French/Parisian contingent. It was announced that with visa problems fixed for Omar Souleyman, he was the next act. GP introduced Syria's finest musician and the system KICKED! It was super loud, banging and Souleyman arrived on stage in full traditional robes. The mix of hard beats with synthesised Arabic sounds kept us going, before Bonobo's DJ set. Anna said it was a shame that it wasn't a live performance, but got what she wanted when he played a mix of his own tunes, which was a perfect way to round off the festival. The sounds from the final hour of the festival soundtracked our walk back up the hillside, happy at the feast of music we'd eaten in the past week!

Last day of the festival
The gang at St Christ

In Brazilian colours for Marcos Valle

Overall: Having been to festivals in the UK and Europe, Worldwide is a different experience entirely. It feels like you're on holiday and there happens to be a music festival on at the same time. Being a music junkie and fan of a lot of the acts, I do get twitchy if I can't get to performances that I really want to see, but thats a minor issue! As a fan of music from far and wide, its great to be able to see Brazilian, Cuban, Syrian, and African acts as well as those from the UK and the States. Being able to see the legend that is Marcos Valle perform for 2 hours and also up and coming Brazilian Lucas Santtana on the same bill was a real joy. A bit disappointed to miss Marky as years ago he was my favourite Drum n Bass DJ, but you can't realistically see every act that appears in a week. The programming of the music was awesome, and GP popped up everywhere introducing acts, DJing and working with the team to deliver a great festival. The sound was solid (often a gripe of mine at festivals) and the town itself is the star. The people are nice, tolerant of all the music heads from all over enjoying their town. The seafood at Grilladin Cettois is delicious - if you're at the festival, you'll easily find it. Also recommended is Restaurant le 19 near the merry go round at St Christ. The fish and shellfish are great everywhere. The restaurants and cafes in Sete cater from affordable to high end, if you feel the urge to splurge on champagne and oysters. Make sure you try some of the local speciality squid, rose wine and tielle (squid pie!). It's nicer than it sounds. Till next year. A plus tard!

See you next year!
I put together this setlist of the artists that played and some of the tracks we heard out during the festival - tried to make it representative. Hope you enjoy!