JOHN ARMSTRONG PRESENTS AFROBEAT BRASIL.

John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil.

Label: BBE.

Not many independent labels are still going strong after twenty-one years. Especially considering how different the musical landscape is. The music industry has been transformed during the last twenty-one years. As a result, there have been a few casualties along the way, and some familiar faces are no more. However, the labels that have adapted to how music is delivered and consumed have survived and thrived. 

These labels have realise that streaming and downloads are two new ways that people listen to music. However, they also realise that people still want to buy physical product, including CDs and LPs. Especially LPs, since the start of the vinyl boom. Labels that recognise the different ways that music is consumed, and deliver a quality product are sure to survive and prosper.

That has certainly been the case with the British independent label BBE. They’re still going strong after nearly twenty-one years, and continue to release innovative new music, reissue albums that are long-lost hidden gems and release critically acclaimed compilations. BBE’s most recent compilation is John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil which is available on CD and as a two LP set. It’s the most recent compilation from one of the hardest working men in music.

John Armstrong has been an integral part of the London music scene since the mid-seventies. The story starts when John Armstrong traveled to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festivals. During his visit, he managed to secure interviews with some of the stars of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He interviewed everyone from producer, singer and songwriter Allen Toussaint to Betty Carter. This was journalistic gold.

When John Armstrong returned home clutching these exclusive interviews, many of them were published in the Jazz and Blues Review which sadly, is now defunct. This was the break that John Armstrong had been looking for. Now his career started to take shape.

By the late-seventies, John Armstrong was ready to make his debut behind the wheels of steel. Soon, he was a familiar face DJ-ing in London’s clubs and pubs. However,  DJ-ing was just one of many strings to John Armstrong’s bow.

Another was compiling compilations. It’s nearly thirty years since John Armstrong first dipped his toe into the world of compilations. Having compiled his first compilation, John Armstrong had no idea that this was the first of 200 compilation that he would go on to compile. They’ve ranged from Afrobeat, Cajun, flamenco and Latin, to rockabilly, rock ’n’ roll and zydeco. His most recent compilation is John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil, which was a labour of love.

John Armstrong has long been a fan of Latin music, and in 2008, devised and wrote Viva Latino, a fourteen part radio series for BBC Radio 2. This was the first music show dedicated to Latin music, and it proved a huge success. The worldwide listening figures reached nine million at one point. For John Armstrong, the success of Viva Latino  added yet another string to his bow.

Over the last thirty years, he’s divided his time between journalism, DJ-ing, writing liner notes and compiling 20o compilations for various record labels. This included John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil,for BBE. It features fourteen scorching tracks released between 2011 and 2017. Although these tracks sound as if they’ve been recorded in various African countries, including Ethiopia, Mali and Nigeria that isn’t the case. All of the tracks were recorded in Brazil.

What the tracks on John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil reinforce is how importance the African beat has been to Brazilian music. That was the case in the past, and is still case today. Nowadays, musicians, singers and rappers continue to draw inspiration from the great and great of African music, to create samba swing, bossa tempo and nordestino nous.  This new music is showcased on John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil.

Never before has an Afrobeat inspired compilation been released outside of Brazil. John Armstrong and BBE are breaking new ground with the release of John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil. It features musicians from Rio De Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador, Porto Alegre and even an expat Brazilian musician residing in Paris, France. These musicians draw inspiration from various types of African music, and use it as a building block to take Brazilian music in new and exciting directions. That becomes apparent on John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil.

The best way to describe André Abujamra is multitalented. He’s a singer, songwriter, guitarist and is an award-winning film score composer. André Abujamra is also an actor and comedian. He was born in Sao Paulo in 1965, but some of his family are from the Lebanon. His background shines through in his music, including Origem which opens John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil. It’s a genre-melting track where Afrobeat horns and percussion combine with elements of Brazilian carnival batucada music and even elements of Irish and Middle Eastern music. This result is irresistible and joyous, and is  sure to stop the listener in their tracks.

One of the pioneers and leading lights of the Brazilian hip hop scene  during the nineties was BNegão. Over the next few years, he collaborated with a variety of artists. In February 2004, BNegão and Os Seletores De Frequência released their first album Enxugando Gelo. Nine years passed before the followup Sintoniza Lá was released to plaudits and praise in 2013. One of the highlights is Os Seletores De Frequência where BNegão and Os Seletores De Frequência seamlessly fuse elements of Afrobeat, dub, funk, hardcore and rap with social comment to create a truly memorable and uplifting track.

Although Camarão Orkestra is based in Paris, France, and comprises French musicians they’re still able to faithfully replicate Brazilian music in an Afrobeat style. Proof of this is Afoxe, which is a Homeric musical Odyssey where Camarão Orkestra flit seamlessly between, and combine, disparate musical genres. Initially, the Camarão Orkestra replicate the Filhos de Gandhi marching beat that can be heard during the Carnival in Salvador da Bahia. This gives way to a Nigerian dance beat that is a feature of seventies Afrobeat albums. To this, Camarão Orkestra add elements of jazz funk which plays its part in ambitious, eight minute Joycean epic.

Straight away, one can hear the influence of Fela Kuti during Bixiga 70’s 5 Esquinas. This is a track from sophomore album Ocupai, which was released in 2013. One of the album’s highlights is 5 Esquinas, which is played in 6/8 time. It finds the São Paulo based ten piece band at their most inventive and innovative, as they fuse Afrobeat and Brazilian music with funk and jazz. In doing so, this tight and talented band take Afrobeat to places it has never been before.

Straight away, one can hear the influence of Fela Kuti during Bixiga 70’s 5 Esquinas. This is a track from sophomore album Ocupai, which was released in 2013. One of the album’s highlights is 5 Esquinas, which is played in 6/8 time. It finds the São Paulo based ten piece band at their most inventive and innovative, as they fuse Afrobeat and Brazilian music with funk and jazz. In doing so, this tight and talented band take Afrobeat to places it has never been before.

Arranger, composer and saxophonist Thiago França was born in Belo Horizonte, in 1980. He’s  already released a trio of albums between 2009 and 2014. These albums showcase a truly talented composer and saxophonist. Alas, these albums are becoming quite rare. However, Etiópia doesn’t feature on any of Thiago França’s three albums, and is the perfect introduction to one of Brazil’s top saxophonists of his generation. Stylistically and sonically, Thiago França seems to have been influenced by the late, great John Coltrane. His playing is inventive and powerful as he unleashes a scorching, sinewy solo. By the end of Etiópia, it’s apparent that Thiago França is a musician that we’ll be hearing much more about.

Twenty-four year old Tássia Reis is one of the rising stars of Brazilian hip hop. The São Paulo born rapper came to the attention of music fans in 2013, when she contributed Meu Rapp Jazz to a women only hip hop mixtape. Since then, Tássia Reis’ star has been in the ascendancy. Her contribution to John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil is Desapegada, which finds Tássia Reis’ delivering an impassioned rap and soulful vocal against a quite beautiful jazz-tinged backdrop. Tássia Reis is another artist with a big future ahead of her.

From the opening bars of Wababa finds singer, songwriter and guitarist André Sampaiao and fellow guitarist Os Afromandinga Wababa transport the listener to Mali. They’ve almost managed to replicate the music of Malian guitarist and master musicians Djelimady Tounkara to Brazil. He’s one of the top African guitarists of his generation. However, André Sampaiao whose a member of reggae band Ponto De Equilibrio is no slouch. Neither is Os Afromandinga Wababa. Together, they create an authentic and evocative homage to Djelimady Tounkara.

Trabalhos Espaciais Manuais is a ten piece band that is based in Porto Alegre. They first came to prominence in 2013, and since then have been playing in bars, concert halls and at festivals. Their music is a fusion of Afrobeat, jazz, rock, maracatu and samba. It’s heady, patent and irresistible brew as Farofa De Banana proves.

Lucas Santtana is singer, composer and producer who was born in Salvador, Brazil in 1970. He’s released five studio albums between 1999 and 2014, plus a remix album and collaboration with Seleção Natural. Músico featured on his 2012 album O Deus Que Devasta Mas Também Cura. It’s a genre-melting track where strings and electronics combine with indie pop and Música Popular Brasileira to create a four-minute post modernist mini masterpiece.

Several artists and bands from the Salvador region feature on John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil. This includes Ifá, who are named after the religion and belief system of the Yoruba people. Their roots can be traced back to the ‘16th’ century, in what was then Benin Republic. Nowadays, Ifá is a nine piece band whose music is a blistering fusion of Afrobeat and funk. Ifá’s contribution is Salva Dor, six minutes of magical music. Key to its sound and success are braying, blazing horns, searing, scorching guitars and electronics, including a vocoder.  They play their part in whats without doubt, one of the highlights of the compilation.

When São Paulo based Otto Nasca released his debut album Supersimetria in 2016, it was a musical journey through disparate musical genres. Otto Nasca had fused elements of Afrobeat, funk, jazz, maracatu and samba on Supersimetria. It was an irresistible musical brew. Proof of this is Democracia, which is a heartfelt ballad, where Otto Nasca draws attention to the political problems that are causing chaos within Brazil.

A remix of Ellen Oléria’s Afrofuturo closes John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil. Ellen Oléria is another rising stars of the Brazilian music scene, and released her 2013 eponymous debut on Universal Music. Three years later, and Ellen Oléria released her sophomore album Afrofuturista, which opens with Afrofuturo. It’s remixed and heads in the direction of dubwise, and in the process, introduces Ellen Oléria’s music to a new audience.

That is the story of John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil, which was recently released by BBE. It’s the first ever compilation of Afrobeat inspired Brazilian music to be released outside of Brazil. John Armstrong and BBE are breaking new ground with the release of John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil. 

On John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil, musicians from Rio De Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador, Porto Alegre and Paris, drawing  inspiration from various types of African music, and use it as a building block to take Brazilian music in new and unheralded directions. The result is ambitious and inventive music. Some of the music on John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil is genre-melting, and is the result of disparate musical genres being fused to create new and innovative music. It seems that across Brazil, a new generation of musicians across Brazil are determined to use the music from Africa and Brazil’s past to create the music of the future. They succeed in doing so, and John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil.

For anyone with even a passing interest in Afrobeat or Brazilian music, then John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil will definitely be of interest to them. It will also be of interest to anyone who enjoys and appreciates good music, as John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil is one of the best compilations of recent months. It’s a case of all killer, and no filler. John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil features some old friends who rub shoulders with musical veterans, new names and several hidden gens. The result is a tantalising taste of Afrobeat inspired Brazilian music. Hopefully, there will be further volumes in the series. After all, compilations like John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil provide the perfect showcase for a new generation of talented Brazilian musicians, and introduce their music to a much wider audience.

John Armstrong Presents Afrobeat Brasil.

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