Monday, August 9, 2010

Britain-Brazilian Rock Connections

The ABC Trust (patron, one Jimmy Page), a charity existing to support Brazilian street kids, hosted an exclusive gig at the Embassy Club in London this evening. The sublime Bebel Gilberto previewed some of her new CD, delivering an acoustic set to about 90 lucky invited guests.

Not a name that you recognise? No? This Grammy-award nominated lady is the daughter of the famed João Gilberto and singer Miúcha. Her uncle is singer/composer Chico Buarque. Still no glimmer of recognition? Shame on you! But it is hardly surprising, though I'll bet Spanish, French and Italian readers of this blog will know the names. And it goes without saying that the Brazilians will! But we English-speaking Anglo-Saxons are very limited in our appreciation of any music where the lyrics are not sung in our familar tongue. OK, admittedly there's a limited appreciation of bossa nova and salsa but I'll lay short odds right now that Santana and the Buena Vista Social Club are about the only two Latin acts most can immediately call to mind. That we voluntarily cut ourselves off from the richness of other cultures is our loss, believe me.

It hasn't happened the other way though. No such cultural myopia in Brazil where local musicians have long looked to England for inspiration. Trawl through a 'sebo' in Rio (second-hand book and music shops) and you'll find stacks of 1960s and 70s UK vinyl gold as an indication of listening tastes. It's not just the popular chart stuff but real obscurities. Look at the gig list in Sao Paulo today and there are contemporary UK Indie bands filling the clubs. Scan the tracks of Brazilian superstars and wannabees alike are you'll find covers of Lennon & McCartney, Jagger and Richards, and many more recent songwriters.

Two names stands out as being conduits through which rock flowed into Rio; Gilberto Gil and Cateano Veloso. These two' fleeing Brazil's then military government, lived the lives of London-based exiles for three years in the early 70s. While here, they absorbed the musical landscape. Gil played and toured with some of the 70s greats. He in turn influenced British contemporaries. It came as little surprise, just a few years back, to see Eric Clapton in the audience for one of Gil's regular London returns.

Gil and Veloso lived in Chelsea, off the Kings Road, and in Nottinghill Gate. The property became a centre for artistic Brazilian exiles I read somewhere that Gil shared a flat with Terry Reid but inevitably, this being Bob Marley's territory and the 70s his time, it was reggae as well as rock that they took with them back to Brazil.

Look them up on Wiki. Gil became Minister of Culure under the populist President Lula.

Modern Brazilian rock albums show off these multi-cultural influences. Listen to Os Mutantes, the only non-English-language psychadelic album considered a classic by the critics. The influence of UK rock is there but tempered and twisted into a distinctly Brazilian feel with bossa and samba patterns often creeping in. One fine contemporary CD I heard the other day was by Rodrigo Santos. His skillful re-arrangments of standard Beatle numbers really freshen them up.

Anyway, I digress. Bebel Gilberto was wonderful. Two short sets, mostly bossa-based, and if I'm not mistaken with at least one Veloso-penned number. It was great of this international star to give her services free to help the ABC Trust recruit a few new well-heeled supporters. It is to be hoped that at least 90 people went home with a new appreciation of music not sung in English!

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