Monday, May 15, 2017

Olá Brasil

In 1999, I wrote the liner notes for a Starbucks Coffee compilation CD, Olá Brasil: Rhythms of Joy and Longing. It focused on bossa nova and MPB and was quirky in its mix of tunes but fun to listen to. Pink Martini's "Brazil" (their version of Ary Barroso's landmark exaltation samba "Aquarela do Brasil") was the most unconventional pick while Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Águas de Março" and Luiz Bonfá's "Manhã de Carnaval" were conventional yet gratifying choices. The CD is available used from Amazon and elsewhere. The CD liner notes can be read below, followed by a few music videos of the selections.

Videos of Song Selections

Vinícius Cantuária, "Amor Brasileiro"

Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim, "Águas de Março"

Pink Martini performing "Brazil" ("Aquarela do Brasil")

To find a Brazilian CD or MP3:

Friday, February 24, 2017

Carnaval 2017 in Brazil

Carnaval will be celebrated all over Brazil from Saturday through Tuesday, with plenty of early and late celebrations as well. Rio de Janeiro, Recife (and Olinda), and Salvador all have Carnaval street celebrations with millions of people over several days. Samba and marcha (Rio), axé music (Salvador), and frevo and maracatu (Recife/Olinda) are among the most popular Carnaval styles of music. Many popular Brazilian musicians will lead blocos or dance with samba schools. Funk carioca / pop singer Anitta (two images below) will lead the "bloco das poderosas" in Salvador this year.

Everyone can participate in Carnaval...

Rio Maracatu parades along Ipanema Beach in Rio 

Maracatu alfaia drum

Carnaval in Olinda

Read about the history of Brazilian Carnaval, samba, frevo, maracatu, axé music, funk carioca and more in The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil, which is available in print and digital editions through Amazon worldwide.

Also see:


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fundo de Quintal in L.A. October 9th

Fundo de Quintal, the founding fathers of the rootsy style of samba called pagode, will make a rare Southern California appearance on Sunday, October 9th at the Samba Brazilian Steak House in Redondo Beach, a beach town in the greater Los Angeles area. The musicianship of these veteran sambistas is formidable and the samba they play is not to be confused with the contemporary romantic pop samba also called pagode. For more information, call Brazilian Nites Productions at (818) 566-1111 or see the links at the bottom of this blog.

Here is an excerpt about the group from The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil, which I co-authored with Ricardo Pessanha:

It all started in the mid-1970s, when a group of musicians associated with the Carnaval bloco Cacique de Ramos started getting together for a pagode, a party where people played samba. Every Wednesday night, Bira, Ubirany, Sereno, Almir Guineto, Neoci, Jorge Aragão, and various other talented musicians united for beer, appetizers, and samba in the bloco’s rehearsal space. The atmosphere was informal, the mood collective. The music, often based in the old partido alto style, featured improvising by the singer and the singing of the refrain by everyone else. It was more like being back at Tia Ciata’s house, a musical gathering of friends. There was no distinction between players and audience.

In addition, the samba being made in Ramos added some new instrumental twists. Sereno introduced the tan-tan, a type of atabaque, which replaced the larger and heavier surdo. This was more practical for spontaneous samba get-togethers, as the tan-tan could be carried more easily on buses, the mode of transportation for Rio’s working class. Almir Guineto added a banjo, which was louder than a cavaquinho and better for open-air gatherings. Ubirany started playing a hand-held repique, called a repique de mão, and dispensed with the customary use of drum sticks. And Bira played the pandeiro in unusual ways. The sound was intimate and earthy, with new percussive textures. Their lyrics were unpretentious, focusing on situations from their daily life.

They changed the sonority of samba, they brought back the ‘batuque,’ the instrument played with the hands,” said Beth Carvalho. Brazil’s top samba record producer Rildo Hora told us, “Beth invited me to go to Cacique to listen to the songs and the different percussion that they were playing there. I liked what I saw and heard so much that I talked to Beth and we decided to do something that changed the way people sang and played samba in Rio: we invited those Cacique percussionists to play on Beth’s next album.”

The albums De Pé no Chão (Feet on the Ground, 1978) and Beth Carvalho no Pagode (1979) brought the compositions and playing of the Ramos musicians to the Brazilian public for the first time. Several of those musicians formed the Grupo Fundo de Quintal (Backyard Group), which—with Carvalho’s help—secured a recording contract with RGE and released their debut album Samba é no Fundo de Quintal in 1980. 

The Ramos composers helped to revitalize the partido alto style of samba. Hora told us that in the pagode get-togethers, “everyone sings a lot of partido alto because it’s a samba that has a repeated refrain. In between the refrains, there is musical play, improvised verses. It’s inviting.” The style, also employed by Martinho da Vila, became closely identified with the pagodeiros, although they explored other types of samba as well.

Many big names started recording songs by Fundo de Quintal composers, whose sambas had catchy melodies and strong rhythms, and the record companies and press started calling their music pagode. Carvalho popularized their compositions on her albums, and the Grupo Fundo de Quintal’s sales increased with each new release. Early on, Almir Guineto and Jorge Aragão left the group to pursue solo careers; they were replaced by Walter Sete Cordas and Arlindo Cruz. Arlindo played with them until 1993, and became a notable musician (on cavaquinho, banjo, and the hybrid “banjo-cavaco”) and a prolific songwriter in his own right. 

Fundo de Quintal's lineup of musicians has changed, but the group has continued to release bestselling albums of quality music and to win Brazilian music-industry awards for their work. Their album Só Felicidade was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Samba/Pagode Album in 2015.

--most of the above is excerpted from The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil (Temple University Press) © Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha, 1991-2014. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Blog Index

Tecnobrega/pop diva Gaby Amarantos

The Brazilian Sound Blog Index

Featured Blogs:

All Blogs (Most Recent at Top):


Rio Carnaval Images:








More blogs about Brazilian
music and culture:
(blog index)

Read the Books:

Also see:


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Where to Find the Books

Where to Find The Brazilian Sound & The Brazilian Music Book

by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha

The leading guide to Brazilian music in the English language is available worldwide in paperback (above) and as a Kindle ebook with color photos (below).

by Chris McGowan

Revealing conversations with iconic and important figures in Brazilian music such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Carlos Lyra, Milton Nascimento, Airto Moreira, Dori Caymmi, Laurindo Almeida, Antonio Adolfo, Djavan, Ivan Lins, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Cristina Braga, Jovino Santos Neto, Luciana Souza and Lenine. 

Available in a Kindle digital edition
readable on iPad, Galaxy, Android,
Macs & PCs with the free Kindle app

for .pdfs, academic use
or more information:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Naná Vasconcelos

Naná Vasconcelos playing the berimbau

Naná Vasconcelos, a Brazilian percussionist who left his mark on global music, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 71. Vasconcelos gained critical acclaim for his work with Egberto Gismonti, Codona, and the Pat Metheny Group. His peer Airto Moreira called him “the best berimbau player in the world.” Vasconcelos won the Downbeat Critics Poll in the category of percussion from 1983 to 1991 and was an influential figure in jazz. Read my blog about Naná for the Huffington Post here:

Naná Vasconcelos live in Rome in 1983

Codona: Don Cherry, Collin Walcott and Naná Vasconcelos

Naná Vasconcelos (standing) and Pat Metheny (center)

Egberto Gismonti and Naná Vasconcelos

Egberto Gismonti and Naná Vasconcelos
perform "Dança das Cabeças" in 1996.

Read about Naná here:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Carnaval 2016

Papangus de Bezerros,
Pernambuco, 2016

Carnaval was celebrated in 2016 in Brazil in the usual way: all over the country, in nearly every town, and with traditions from street blocos to escolas de samba to frevo to maracatu.

Lenine performs during
Carnaval, Recife, 2016

Claudia Leitte sambas with
Mocidade Independente

Who's worried about Zika?

In the mood for Carnaval

Carnaval, Olinda, Pernambuco

singer Daniela Mercury

Carnaval, Rio, 2016

Tays Reis of the group Vingadora

Maracatu, Pernambuco, 2016

Sambista with pandeiro,
Carnaval, Rio, 2016

Carnaval, Rio 2016

Mangueira won the escola de samba
competition for Carnaval in 2016
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The venerable samba school paid
homage to singer Maria Bethânia

Mangueira, 2016

Mangueira, 2016

Rio Maracatu in Rio de Janeiro

Filhos de Ghandy of Salvador, Bahia

Find Brazilian music