The Soundcheck Guide To Brazil: Amazonian Pop

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Gaby Amarantos is a star of an electrifying new dance sound called 'tecnobrega' coming from northern Brazil.

The host of this year's World Cup, Brazil, is a musical world unto itself. So over the next few weeks, Soundcheck brings you an occasional series looking at the huge musical landscape of Latin America's largest and most populous country as part of the Soundcheck Guide To Brazil.

A region that may not be familiar even to seasoned observers of Brazilian music is the northern state of Pará, near the mouth of the Amazon. It was isolated from more traditional cultural hubs like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo for much of the 20th century, by dint of its remoteness. But that remoteness meant that inhabitants were free to create a musical melting-pot sound all their own. They adapted Caribbean rhythms that arrived via contraband ships in the ports of Pará's capital, Belém, and forged a unique, guitar-based sound called lambada, which has seen a recent resurgence, and has also influenced a new form of dance music.

Marlon Bishop's essay for the new book Sounds And Colours: Brazil, "Welcome To The Jungle: The Rise Of The Amazonian Sound" discusses how the idiosyncratic mix of cultural and musical backgrounds has made Belém a sudden star in Brazil. Artists from across the country are mining these sounds and invigorating the country's already stellar music scene.

Amazonian Pop: A Very Brief Introduction


Mestre Viera E Seu Conjunto, "Joia" (1980)

Caribbean sounds found their way to Belém on ships carrying vinyl, which were picked up and adapted by Brazilian locals into a form of music known as lambada. The term means "to whip," and reflects the crackling energy and rhythm of the guitar playing.


Felipe Cordeiro, "Problema Seu" from Se Apaixone Pela Loucura Do Seu Amor

Felipe Cordeiro is the son of one of the producers responsible for "rediscovering" lambada masters of guitar in the early 2000s. In his own playing, he straddles the old and the new. Marlon Bishop points out that he's not afraid to throw in the occasional tecnobrega beat (see below) in addition to his chirping guitar melodies. 


Gaby Amarantos, "Xirley" from Treme (2012)

Gaby Amarantos is the most visible and well-known proponent of the new soundsystem dance rhythm known as "tecnobrega." When Amarantos was interviewed for Bishop's book, Sounds And Colours: Brazil, she said, "By putting beats together, we created and developed a new beat which has a bit of Amazonian music in it, a little flavour of indigenous drumming mixed with brega [traditional romantic music] that speaks of love, betrayal, relationships, happiness, drunkenness and having fun."


Do Amor, "Isso É Carimbó" 

Do Amor is a band out of Rio de Janeiro that has discovered the wealth of Belém's musical heritage. They take carimbó sounds and give them, in Bishop's words, "the Vampire Weekend treatment."