Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, the first seconds of 2008. As fireworks explode, announcing the arrival of a brand new year, another kind of explosion takes place in the stage set up on the sand. Boom! Hey, what’s that sound? So groovy, so sexy, so strong, so wild… It’s definitely not the sweet songs of the bossa nova! In the meantime, someone asks: shouldn’t those people there be listening to bossa? Hey, it’s the year of its 50th anniversary! No, man, no bossa nova this time. It’s party time – and there’s no better party music than the one that DJ Marlboro is blaring out of the speakers. It’s called funk, it comes from the favelas and it’s the latest musical revolution to have spread from the city.
Decades apart, bossa nova and funk have lots of differences, as well as lots in common, besides being two genuine carioca inventions. Surely, there was absolutely no reason for them not to be together – they just needed to be introduced. So, ladies and gentleman, here’s Bossa do Morro, a record that was just waiting to be made. Some of the best baile funk DJs remixing some of the best bossa nova tracks, from the vaults of record labels Verve and MPS. Remember when hip hop British producers US3 started messing with the recordings of jazz label Blue Note? Yes, you know what to expect. But prepare to be surprised, because funk and bossa are just like sparks and gasoline. Boom!
A good track to start with is “Berimbau”. The song was written by two of bossa’s masters: the guitar player Baden Powell (1937/2000) and poet/lyricist Vinicius de Moraes (1913/1980), best known for “Garota de Ipanema”, with Tom Jobim (1927/1994). There, you can see what bossa is about: the meeting of samba and other Brazilian rhythms with the subtlety and melodic improvements of American jazz. The version of “Berimbau” used in this track was recorded in 1966 by guitar player Rosinha de Valença (1941/2004), percussionist Chico Batera and Jorge Arena, who plays the berimbau – one of the most recognizable instruments used in the African-Brazilian music. Then, 42 years later, there comes DJ Nazz, remixing the track and telling us one of two things about baile funk.
Nazz is one of the guys who played Miami bass records in the hot bailes for the poor kids in the North Zone of Rio in the 80’s. Some years after he started it, these same kids began to rap over the electronic beats, with melodies borrowed from samba and other kinds of Brazilian folk music. Enter the PCs and music software and suddenly these kids are warping the American beats, infecting it with African-Brazilian rhythms and instruments – such as the berimbau, which is ironic – sampled from old records. So, there you have the baile funk – modern Brazilian music born from a cultural clash. Modern Brazilian music that became so popular in the city. Music that took over the planet’s ears, just like the bossa nova had some 40 years before.
But why have these two carioca musical genres stayed worlds apart for so long? It’s because there’s not only one Rio de Janeiro. The beach, the warming sun, the flower, the girl from Ipanema… they all belong to the richest part of the city, down South. And this is the image of Rio that bossa nova publicized in the last 50 years. North and West, this is people living with little comfort but lots of dignity, spending long hours in public transports, working for low salaries, getting their heads burnt by the sun but also having lots of cheap fun. Their soundtrack used to be, basically, samba. Hip hop took over and then mutated into funk – a sound that means everything to the kids, but that had always been outlawed in the bossa part of Rio for being too noisy, rude and dangerous.
Well, in fact it used to be the same with samba when it appeared – unruly music for unruly people. But just a few years later it became the music of Rio (and Brazil), some kids in Zona Sul with lots of curiosity and free of prejudices were putting it in the mix and creating bossa. That’s it: the best things in music happen when the two cities meet. So, why not have bossa nova and funk together? Why not mix the two musical genres that represent the city all along the world, with all its contrasts, and see what happens? This is Bossa do Morro – South and North, the quiet and the loud, the acoustic and the electronic, love and sex, for the first time in the same album. Or The Girl From Ipanema goes to City of God and comes back to tell she’s had the fun of her life.
Some might say there’s no way the raw everyday music of the favela kids can compare – or even bring something good – to the sweet classic tracks of bossa nova, written and sung by skilled, musically trained, highly educated (and, most of the time white and wealthy) musicians. Well, you better listen to what DJ Edgar did to a couple of Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes’ classics: “Insensatez” (played by German saxophonist Klaus Doldinger) and “Água de Beber” (by Mr. Jobim himself). The new beats and samples fit the songs perfectly, taking them to the Rio de Janeiro of 2008 without any loss of beauty. Or contradictions. After all, it’s all pure carioca music.
And the beat goes on in Bossa do Morro. You know João Gilberto, whose very personal take on samba gave birth to the bossa nova rhythm patterns – he alone, strumming the guitar strings and singing in a very low voice, made a revolution. Now listen to “Garota de Ipanema”, one of his most famous performances (with Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz), remixed by DJ Nazz. And his “Bim Bom” recreated by Amazing Clay, one of the longest running funk carioca DJs. Might not be a new revolution – but never have the recordings sounded so fresh and sexy, opening new windows for music to breathe. Funk and bossa. Bossa and funk. Why not?
The African roots of both music genres come to the surface again with “Macumba”, the track recorded in 1966 by drummers Rubens Bassini, Jorge Arena and Chico Batera. The remix by DJs Dinho and Fu introduces the tamborzão – the drum pattern from umbanda ceremonies that became a fixture for the baile funk music in the new century – to the mix. And it works. So, here is the lesson: everyone is allowed to do anything in the funk universe. Just like Sergio Mendes, who, in the sixties, had the guts to take a Beatles song (“Day Tripper”) and put it into the Brazilian world, proving that even more than a musical style, bossa nova is a feeling. Now, it’s time for Dinho and Fu to exercise their furious cut and paste skills in a funky recombination of the old track with the tamborzão. Just listen.
Finally, it’s far from a coincidence that Bossa do Morro features songs by the guitar player and songwriter Luiz Bonfá (1922/2001) – “Emboscada” and “Samburá” (remixed in different tracks by Dinho, Fu, Rafael and Amazing Clay). One of the pioneers of bossa and a jazz musician of international recognition, Bonfá is the writer, together with Vinicius de Moraes, of the songs for the movie Black Orpheus, the greek tragedy reenacted in the Rio favelas of the late fifties. Many people in Europe will remember the Marcel Camus’ film as probably the first time they feel in love with Brazil and bossa nova. So, almost 50 years later, here are the funk DJs helping take the bossa back to the morro. And the results of the meeting of these two carioca neighbours that had previously not hang out together is here for everyone to appreciate.
Bossa Do Morro was created by Berlin based DJ, producer and music journalist Daniel Haaksman. With his compilations “Rio Baile Funk Favela Booty Beats” and his label Man Recordings he popularized the sound of Rio´s favelas around the world. His numerous contacts to the funk scene allowed him to produce and commission the world´s first ever remix project, in which protagonists of funk carioca rework bossa nova classics. Surely, Bossa Do Morro will create further inernational interest for the timeless sound of bossa nova as well as the hot and contemporary sound from the favelas of Rio.
Silvio Essinger, Rio De Janeiro, Autumn 2008
1. Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 “Day Tripper” (DJ Dinho & DJ Fú Remix)
2. Luiz Bonfa “Sambura” (DJ Amazing Clay Remix)
3. Sylvia Telles “Discussão” (DJ Bolão & MC Gringo Funk Remix)
4. Chico Batera “Berimbau” (DJ Nazz + Ernani Maldonado feat. Bani Silva Remix)
5. João Gilberto “Desafinado”
6. Fenanda Meireilles “Barquinho” (DJ Marrentinho Funk Remix)
7. Luiz Bonfa “Embolada” (DJ Dinho & DJ Fu Remix)
8. Stan Getz “Bim Bom” (DJ Amazing Clay Remix)
9. Antonio Carlos Jobim “Agua De Beber” (DJ Edgar Remix)
10. Astrud Gilberto “Garota De Ipanema” (DJ Nazz Remix)
11. Klaus Doldinger “Insensatez” (DJ Edgar Remix)
12. Rosinha Valença “Uma Noite” (DJ Marrentinho Remix)
13. Chico Batera “Macumba” (DJ Dinho & DJ Fu Remix)
Daniel Haaksman on “Bossa Do Morro”: