NPR logo Brazilian Psych-Rock In Memory Of Lula Cortes

Brazilian Psych-Rock In Memory Of Lula Cortes

Lula Cortes, from the cover of his album Rosa De Sangue. Courtesy of Rozenblit/Time Lag Records hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Rozenblit/Time Lag Records

Lula Cortes, from the cover of his album Rosa De Sangue.

Courtesy of Rozenblit/Time Lag Records

The influential musician died this weekend. Hear his music and more 1970s Brazilian psych-rock in this list, originally published on Aug. 7, 2008.

Like many people entranced by the wonders of Brazil's tropicalia movement, I discovered Os Mutantes, Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso first. I listened to the early tunes, produced by maestros such as Rogerio Duprat. As I kept digging, I found Arthur Verocai and his sublime self-titled album.

Finally, all the way down the rabbit hole, I came to Recife, in northeastern Brazil, where in the 1970s a scene coalesced around a musician named Lula Cortes. A hazier, sun-drenched offshoot of the psychedelic rock scene happening around the world at the time, the movement created a handful of labels that recorded, produced and distributed some of the most beautiful music I've ever stumbled across. It's perfect for hot summer nights.

Brazilian Psych-Rock In Memory Of Lula Cortes

Paebiru cover

Trilha de Sume

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93283820/93283051" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Lula Cortes/Zé Ramalho

  • Song: Trilha de Sume
  • from Paebiru

This is the first song on Lula Cortes' and Ze Ramalho's legendary double-disc 1975 album (Paebiru), of which a few hundred were pressed and most destroyed in a flood at the pressing plant. Hypnotic and as funky as you can get, the album was inspired by the discovery of an ancient rock in the jungle; the set's four sides are named Air, Land, Water and Fire.

Marconi Notaro cover

Antropologica II

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93283820/93079802" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Marconi Notaro

  • Song: Antropologica II
  • from No Sub Reino Dos Metazoarios

Marconi Notaro: poet, songwriter, visionary, drunk. This is from his solo album No Sub Reino Dos Metazoarios, one of my favorite albums of all time. This track — the heaviest, funkiest piece of psychedelia on an album full of great moments — was the first song to hit me. Rough translation: "I'll remain faithful to my origins / son of God / nephew of Satan." What a way to begin a song.

Satwa cover

Can I Be Satwa

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93283820/93079673" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Satwa

  • Song: Can I Be Satwa

This trance-inducing quasi-raga is also pulsingly rhythmic, and approachably in 4/4 time. "Can I Be Satwa" features Cortes on tricordio, an instrument he made himself that's sort of a cross between a sitar and a dulcimer. Not only did the musicians in this movement invent their own labels and create their own artwork, but they also fashioned their own instruments — why not manifest all points of one's musical destiny?

Flaviola cover

Noite

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93283820/93079710" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Flaviola E O Bando Do Sol

  • Song: Noite

A minimalist folk-psych masterpiece. I don't know why this morose, Shakespearean ballad sounds better in Portuguese than in English; it just does. How many summer nights have I listened to this song over and over, wondering if I could stay up to see the rays of dawn while it plays?

Rosa De Sangue cover

Noite Preta

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93283820/93079780" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Lula Cortes

  • Song: Noite Preta
  • from Psychedelic Pernambuco

This track is from Cortes' supremely rare Rosa De Sangue album — which, due to a major-label contractual stipulation, never saw release after its first and only limited pressing. What a shame. Though the album is from 1980, well after the high point of the psych-rock movement, it's full of fuzzy psychedelic workouts, Cortes' trademark solo jams on his triocordio and folk-funk joints like this.

Egon is the general manager of the Stones Throw label. He also founded Now-Again Records, which reissues American funk and soul albums, and the Soul-Cal imprint with Peanut Butter Wolf. He DJs funk and psychedelia sets at venues all around the world.