My favorite things Brazil, music edition

1. Classical music: Villa-Lobos for sure, his guitar music most of all.  Hector Miolin and Joseph Bacon made excellent recordings.

2. Acoustic guitar: We all know the jazz and bossa nova player Baden Powell, but John Fahey was rightly obsessed with Bola Sete, an acoustic blues player with licks from another planet.  Even many well-informed "guitar specialists" don’t know his work.

3. MPB: There are so many wonderful figures, buy Brazil Classics 1, 2, and 3 for the best overviews; all the cuts are selected by David Byrne.  Brazil Classics 1 would be one of my ten desert island discs and sometimes I feel it is my favorite CD period.  Beleza Tropical 2 is a good follow-up disc.  Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think many of the MPB albums stand on their own, but the best cuts are unforgettable.

4. Copied by Beck: Os Mutantes ["We are Mutants"] is one of the best groups of the 1960s.  When it comes to putting together a song in the studio, they rate just behind the Beatles and Brian Wilson.  The "Best of" CD is a good place to start; Beck will never ever sound the same again.

5. Brazilian electronica: Start with Suba’s Sao Paulo Confessions, one of the subtlest techno albums.  For a good collection of the music he inspired, try The Now Sound of Brazil, which includes cuts by Cibelle, Bebel Gilberto, Zuco 103, and others.  This is a growing and vital genre.

6. Drum music: First prize goes to Olodum, they are best live, preferably late at night in the town square in Salvador, Bahia, which I have yet to experience.  They play on Paul Simon’s "The Obvious Child," which can be downloaded on iTunes.  Honorable mention to Timbalada and Ile Aiye.

7. Forro: To call it "jaunty and infectious accordion music" does not do it justice; Music for Maids and Taxi Drivers is one good introduction, plus anything by Luis Gonzaga.

8. Classical pianist: Nelson Freire remains underrated, here is a Chopin recital, better than Rubinstein.

There is more, and more, and more.  Most of it I don’t even know.  Here are some different recommendations.

The bottom line: Very few countries have better music than Brazil.  If you take away the United States, Brazil might have the world lead.  If you don’t know this stuff, you have much to live for.  Please do put your further recommendations in the comments.


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