Brazilian Soul Music

Black swing in the tropics

Tárik de Souza
Just like rock’n’roll did, James Brown, Otis Reading and Aretha Franklin’s soul music had great influence over Brazilian music in the 60s. Black American swing can be detected in early Jorge Ben songs (Agora Ninguém Chora Mais, Negro É Lindo, Que Nega É Essa), and more clearly on Wilson Simonal’s repertoire (Mamãe Passou Açúcar em Mim, País Tropical, Tributo a Martin Luther King). Nonetheless, one of Jorge Ben’s rocker colleagues was to initiate Brazilian soul’s saga: Sebastião Rodrigues Maia, a.k.a. Tim Maia.

At age 17, in 1959, Tim Maia headed for the Unite States, where he learned everything about black music and became a member of The Ideals. Back in Rio, he started to write songs in the soul style he had listened to while abroad. His name soon became notable, and in 1969, Elis Regina recorded These Are The Songs (one among many that Tim had written in English). In 1970, he recorded his first album, Tim Maia, one of the greatest hits of the year, featuring songs like Azul da Cor do Mar, Coroné Antônio Bento, a soul-baião, and Primavera, written by the future king of Brazilian soul: Genival Cassiano. Born in Paraíba (NE), Cassiano started playing the acoustic guitar with Bossa Trio, which became Os Diagonais, who mixed soul and samba. His solo career started out in 1971 with the album Cassiano, Imagem e Som.

Still in 1970, Brazilian soul music would boom with the hit BR-3, sang by Toni Tornado, who would always stick to the black music ensign. Tim Maia, on the other hand, would amass hits along the decade: Não Quero Dinheiro, Réu Confesso and Gostava Tanto de Você. Cassiano had his turn, with songs like A Lua e Eu and Coleção. In 1975, the third power of Brazilian soul would come up: Hyldon (from Bahia) and his smashing hits Na Rua, Na Chuva, Na Fazenda; Na Sombra de Uma Árvore and As Dores do Mundo.

Funk disciples
In its Rio headquarters, Brazilian soul music absorbed funk and Black Power information, growing and revealing names like Paulo Diniz (I Want To Go Back To Bahia), Gerson King Combo (former dancer, brother of great new school composer Getúlio Côrtes, with the songs Mandamentos Black and O Rei Morreu (Viva o Rei) and Carlos Dafé (Pra Que Vou Recordar o Que Chorei), Robson Jorge and Miguel de Deus (with the album Black Soul Brothers). On the other hand, BPM also took in a bit of the funk-soul influence in songs like Black Is Beautiful and Mentira, recorded by bossa nova songwriter Marcos Valle; and samba-soul with Jorge Ben Jor, Bebeto and Trio Mocotó.

In the late 70s, there were plenty of black music parties in the suburbs of Rio, which generated a movement known as Black Rio. The name was used by a band that was interested in mixing samba with imported soul and jazz. The album Maria Fumaça, from 1977, was Black Rio’s debut and featured a breathtaking sound that became cult among acid jazz fans in the 90s.

Meanwhile, at the "head office", the funk virulence started to be substituted for a softer version of black music, tailored for dance floors and mass consumption, with no trace of racial calls. It was the discotheque, Donna Summer, Chic and Earth Wind & Fire, who had their best Brazilian translation with the group As Frenéticas, singers/actresses lined up by producer/songwriter Nelson Motta to work as waitresses in his nightclub. Other musicians who jumped on that train were Gilberto Gil, Tim Maia, and producer/keyboard player Lincoln Olivetti.

The 80s witnessed the emergence of a Brazilian soul diva, Sandra de Sá, who has had numerous hits since then: Demônio Colorido, Olhos Coloridos, Vale Tudo, Enredo do Meu Samba and Joga Fora, among others.

In spite of being initially connected with rock, the band Brylho was another act revealed from within Brazilian soul in the early 80s. As a Cassiano disciple, guitarist Claudio Zoli started out a solo career in 1986. Along with Sandra and Tim, he has become one of the greatest warriors of Brazilian soul. And Tim Maia smashed the hits Descobridor dos Sete Mares, Do Leme ao Pontal, Me Dê Motivo and Telefone.

New generation
A big rock, funk and soul connoisseur, Tim Maia’s nephew Ed Motta spent most of his teenage years working his voice to stardom. At age 16, he joined the band Conexão Japeri and released the album Ed Motta & Conexão Japeri, which granted him radio hits such as Manoel and Vamos Dançar, triggering a new chapter in Brazilian soul history. He left Conexão and improved his soul recipe for the second album, Um Contrato Com Deus.

Ed lived in New York City, for a while, where he made an album that has never been released. In 1992 he recorded the jazzy Entre e Ouça, which was a commercial flop. In 1997, Ed put out the album Manual Prático Para Bailes, Festas e Afins Vol. 1, where he managed to merge musical sophistication and popular appeal – with songs like Fora da Lei, Daqui Pro Méier and Vendaval helping him come to terms with success.

Ed Motta ruled in the 90s – and brought forward his uncle’s scepter – but he was not the only name to keep Brazilian soul going. That’s the case with Sandra de Sá, the resurrected Conexão Japeri, Edmon Costa, Zé Ricardo and Léo M (Tim Maia’s adoptive son). In the early 90s in Rio, a more melodic line of soul inspired new composers to create the so-called Funk Melody, based upon the Miami Bass, which was the standard funk ball soundtrack. The sub-genre revealed names like Latino, Claudinho & Buchecha, Copacabana Beat and Marcinho & Goró.

The soul-funk from Rio was turned into a sub-genre in the 90s, being the basis for artists emerged from the 80s pop-rock, like Fernanda Abreu and Lulu Santos. São Paulo, in its turn, generated rap artists who advanced in the realms of grooves and melodies: Sampa Crew, Thaíde & DJ Hum and Bennê. Another sub-genre created in São Paulo explored the modern approach proposed by Prince, TLC and the likes, promoting names like João Marcelo Bôscoli and Pedro Camargo Mariano, Maurício Manieri and Max de Castro, who put out Samba Raro in the beginning of 2000.



Primavera (Cassiano/ Tim Maia)
Azul da Cor do Mar – Tim Maia
BR-3 (Antônio Adolfo) – Toni Tornado
A Lua e Eu – Cassiano
Gostava Tanto de Você – Tim Maia
Na Chuva, Na Rua, Na Fazenda – Hyldon
Mandamentos Black – Gerson King Combo
Black Is Beautiful – Marcos Valle e Elis Regina
Mr. Funk Samba – Banda Black Rio
Realce – Gilberto Gil
Pra que Vou Recordar o que Chorei – Carlos Dafé
Dancin' Days – Frenéticas/ Lulu Santos
Sossego – Tim Maia/ Defalla
A Noite Vai Chegar – Lady Zu
Olhos Coloridos – Sandra de Sá
A Noite do Prazer – Brylho
Joga Fora – Sandra de Sá
Descobridor dos Sete Mares – Tim Maia/ Lulu Santos
Manuel – Ed Motta
Conquista – Claudinho & Buchecha
Fora da Lei – Ed Motta