Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wednesday's Radio Show – "Under The Influence of the Brazilian Beat"

Here's the playlist for the "Play It And Be Darned" show "aired" on Orchard Radio earlier today. As always, the underlined songs are clickable downloads.

Brazil – Kate Bush (1985)
Bird of Beauty – Stevie Wonder (1974)
One Note Samba – Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim (1969)
Desafinado – Astrud Gilberto + George Michael (1996)
Waters of March – Basia (1998)
Tropicalia – Beck (1998)
Marco De Canaveses – Caetano Veloso (with David Byrne) (1999)
Sexy – Black Eyed Peas (2003)
Please Baby Don't – John Legend (2006)
Daquilo Que Eu Sei – Ivan Lins & Patti Austin (1984)
She Walks This Earth (Soberana Rosa) – Sting (2000)
Capim – The Manhattan Transfer (1987)
The Obvious Child – Paul Simon (1990)
Agua De Beber – Al Jarreau (1994)

Basically, the theme of this show was to turn around a basic conception that people have about American music. We look around the world and see other cultures being heavily influenced by what are some of our biggest inventions: Blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll and even musical theater.

In the case of Brazil, you could make the argument that the influence goes in the opposite direction. Or at the very least, Brazilian music has had as much of an impact on the American music scene as what we produce in the states has had on Brazil.

That concept became crystal clear as I started assembling the hour-long show – and several heart-breaking decisions were made. James Taylor's duet with Milton Nascimento on "Only a Dream in Rio?" Queen Latifah (of all people) crooning "Corcovado"? Arcade Fire performing "Brazil" live on its B-side to "Rebellion (Lies)"? Dionne Warwick singing almost any song off her 1994 Arista swansong Aquarela do Brasil? Sorry. No time for you.

Jobim, Sergio Mendes, Djavan, Caetano Veloso and Ivan Lins certainly got their share of exposure, but Nascimento, Gilberto Gil and Jorge Ben were unfairly neglected. I probably needed at least two hours to give the subject its proper due.

That said, here are a few notes about what was played:
  • Bush's rendition of "Brazil" was never heard during the Terry Gilliam movie of the same name, but can be found on its soundtrack. The version heard in the film is by Geoff Muldaur, ex-husband of Maria. The song is an English rewrite of the 1939 song "Aquarela do Brasil" ("Watercolors of Brazil") composed by Ary Barroso and first heard by most American audiences in Walt Disney's Saludos Amigos (1942).
  • "One Note Samba" is the second prominent Jobim song that I know of in which Jobim also supplied the English lyrics. The arrangements on this song were done by fellow Brazilian Eumir Deodato, who would hit it big in the states a few years later with his funked-up rendition of the "Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey."
  • The Black Eyed Peas' has stated that the first record he ever purchased was by Sergio Mendes, who plays piano on "Sexy," a song that uses the riff from Jobim's "How Insensitive." I eschewed the's version of "Mas Que Nada" (ugh) off of the Mendes' all-star CD he produced two years ago, going with the infinitely superior song from Legend, who also wrote it himself. I'm constantly impressed by Legend, I've got to say.
  • Mendes also provided Wonder with the Portuguese lyrics to "Bird of Beauty," a song Wonder dedicated to Brazil and "my people" of Mozambique, who would gain independence from Portugal the next year.
  • Beck's surprising foray into the Brazilian sound has its roots in the singer's long-held admiration of Os Mutantes, an influential psychedelic band that helped lead the post Bossa Nova Tropicalia movement in the late 60s and 70s. He is thought to have even titled the album Mutations as a tribute to them. He wasn't the only admirer. Nirvana's Kurt Cobain tried unsuccessfully to get the band back together in 1993. And Devendra Banhart jammed with the band when the members (most of them, anyway) finally reunited in 2006.
  • Congratulate me. For the fourth straight week, I've managed a Stan Getz reference. The man responsible for popularizing Bossa Nova in America plays saxophone on the Djavan composition "Capim."
  • The inclusion of "Agua de Beber" is not only in recognition of an excellent Jarreau album called Tenderness (1994) that sees him return to his jazz roots. But it also in celebration of "Al Jarreau Week" at the most excellent web blog, If you haven't already bookmarked it, you really should.

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