Music From Brazil, With Love In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Tell Me More's exploration of Latin American music moves to Brazil, a country of diverse music that includes DJ beats, Afro beats and samba. Michel Martin checks in with Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras, the hosts of NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast.

Music From Brazil, With Love

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Welcome back, both of you. Thank you for joining us.

JASMINE GARSD: Thanks for having us.

FELIX CONTRERAS: Thank you so much.

MARTIN: Felix, why is the music of Brazil so special right now?

CONTRERAS: Well, we recently did something with a producer from Brazil, and it just seems like we were touching the tip of the iceberg. So once we started talking to them so we could theoretically do a show about Brazil every day of the week and never really get to everything. So we had to limit it to two shows. And what we found there was just, again, like I said, is just a very tiny tip of the iceberg. It's so diverse, it's so creative and it's so exciting.

MARTIN: Many people think they probably have heard Brazilian music, but they're probably thinking of - what? You know, bossa nova.

GARSD: Samba.

MARTIN: Samba. Which is still happening, right?

GARSD: And I wanted to start you off with a rapper called Rappin' Hood and he's a great example of how rappers in Brazil - a lot of them - are mixing styles like samba and hip-hop.

MARTIN: Okay. Here it is.


RAPPIN: (Singing in foreign language).

MARTIN: So you hear the Portuguese influence, which is the national language of Brazil, but you're also hearing a very African sound.

GARSD: Absolutely. So this is samba, which is, of course, an African-based rhythm.


HOOD: (Singing in foreign language).

GARSD: And it's actually - in fact, it's featuring samba legend, Leci Brandao, so he's definitely paying homage to samba and to the African tradition. In fact, the name of the song is "Sou Negrao," which - I am black - and it's an ode to African heritage. It basically mentions prominent figures like Malcolm X and Bob Marley, but it is also an ode to Afro-Brazilian artists in Brazil, like Paulinho da Viola and Jorge Ben. And I really like this. It's an older - it's from a few years back, this song, but I really like how he mixes hip-hop and traditional samba music.

MARTIN: Rappin' Hood, huh? Okay. Felix, what else you got for us?

CONTRERAS: We're going to continue with a cut from a singer who's been around for a while and she does contemporary music, but she mixes tradition just like everyone else. And this is a song that's remixed by a DJ. Check it out. This is Luisa Maita.


LUISA MAITA: (Singing in Portuguese language).

CONTRERAS: She's got that, you know, the sound that most people may recognize, even going back to bossa nova. You know, singing in Portuguese, kind of a laid back rhythm to her delivery, but underneath, she's meeting the DJ culture. And these guys are what I like to call the sound sculptors. They're bringing together all these different elements and mixing it up and putting things underneath that weren't there to begin with.


MAITA: (Singing in Portuguese language).

MARTIN: I can hear this in a club in New York or Miami or...

CONTRERAS: Or Sao Paulo or Paris. You know, it's international. That's one thing that's exciting about discovering all this new music, is the DJ culture is turning it out completely. They're doing a lot of really innovative things.

GARSD: And I should mention that she was actually on our show recently. She did a Tiny Desk Concert and she has this voice that's so thin and quiet, but you know, you add those beats and it's just bumping, you know. So it's really an amazing mix.

MARTIN: What else do you have for us?

GARSD: Well, next up, speaking of mixes, I have South Asian bhangra by way of Brazilian funk karaoke(ph) . This is a song called...

MARTIN: Wait, wait, wait. I want to see if you can say that again.

GARSD: No, please. This is (unintelligible), or love dance. This is DJ Raika featuring Zuzuka Poderosa and Mitu Chila (ph).


ZUZUKA PODEROSA: (Singing in foreign language).

MARTIN: These artists are all over the place. DJ Raika is working in New York. Some of the other artists are working in Sao Paulo.

GARSD: Right.

MARTIN: How do they work together? Do they just send tracks back and forth? How do they...

GARSD: Yeah.

MARTIN: How do they achieve these mixes?

GARSD: In this specific case, DJ Raika - she spins a lot of bhangra beats in New York and Zuzuka Poderosa is a Brazilian Indonesian woman who moved to New York to perform this kind of funk karaoke, which is kind of like a Miami bass type music.


PODEROSA: (Singing in foreign language).

GARSD: And they did this fusion. I guess they just ran into each other.

MARTIN: So they just did the subway. Come on.

GARSD: Yeah. Basically.

MARTIN: Jasmine, it wasn't that hard. (Unintelligible) the subway.

GARSD: Yeah, exactly.

MARTIN: So Felix, with all your recent discoveries in Brazilian music, is there any artist that really stands out? I know it's hard.

CONTRERAS: You know, it is very hard and one of the things that was harder to limit the list down to four for this quick piece, but what we're going to do is we're going to end with an artist by the name of Gui Boratto.


CONTRERAS: He is a new DJ. Again, back to the DJ culture and he's a new DJ doing a lot of interesting and fun stuff in Brazil right now.


MARTIN: Do you think that knowing the language is necessary to appreciating this music? Because I think a lot of people have some familiarity with Spanish, with Portuguese, but everybody doesn't. So how would you navigate that if you're not a speaker of Spanish or Portuguese?

CONTRERAS: Well, you know, doing this show, most of the songs are in Spanish, so I'm familiar with it, but doing the Portuguese stuff, there's a lot where I'm not familiar with. And I think the answer is no and yes, you know, in that there's a lot going on. For example, the first cut we played, "Sou Negrao."

GARSD: "Sou Negrao."

CONTRERAS: "Sou Negrao." My Portuguese is non-existent. You know, it's important to hear what he's singing about, but if you don't understand it, the rhythm and everything and just the idea is so complex and so enjoyable that you still get something out of it. I don't think you lose in not understanding the language.

MARTIN: Jasmine, do you agree, disagree?

GARSD: I mean, frankly, a lot of the music we listen to, the lyrics aren't that brilliant, so it's okay.

MARTIN: So kick back.

GARSD: Yeah.

MARTIN: And relax. But if you did want to figure out, if you did want a translation, is it readily available? Could you generally find them online?

GARSD: But we do, when it's like a really deep and noteworthy lyric. We always go out of our way to translate it on the show.

MARTIN: Jasmine, Felix, thanks so much for joining us.

CONTRERAS: Thanks for having us.

GARSD: See you next week.

CONTRERAS: Yeah, thanks.

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