Brazilian Beats'n'Pieces

Favela Uprising

Survival of the Fattest


[Mr. Bongo,]

When new stuff arrives from Mr. Bongo, I usually drop what I'm doing and salivate over the results. The latest batch of releases from the UK-based groove label is no exception.
"Brazilian Beats'n'Pieces" serves as an introductions to Brazilian music that is licensed by the label. Apparently, it's the world's first officially sanctioned all-Brazilian cut'n'paste mix. Key Luckhurst [aka Phat Key] mixes thirty of his favourite tracks to make up one coherent whole. Without a weak track in the bunch, the mix goes from strength to strength. Mixing the ravenous beats of Ivo Meirelles & Funk'n Lata on "Baile Funk Medley" with Som Tres' blues-inspired "Take It Easy My Brother Charles" is genius. So is the crazed African-inspired percussion of Mandrake's "Berimbau" mixed with the loose jazzy "Cidade Vazia" as performed by Milton Banana. Phat Kev's two spliced up remixes included as a bonus are quite funky too. The deeper you dig into this musical concoction, the more you'll learn to truly appreciate this stuff. Staying in Brazil, AfroReggae is a Rio de Janeiro based band that happens to be a part of a cultural organization of the same name. The group works for social change in the favela communities and has had tremendous success in bringing about positive change to thousands of people oppressed by poverty, violence, drugs. AfroReggae's music is cross-pollinated with generous doses of hip-hop, ska, reggae and salsa. As funny as this sounds, the stew is actually quite good. Sad thing is I don't speak a word of Portuguese, so I've no idea what sort of message the band is trying to verbalize. As long as you can live with this [and I'm quite ok with it], the music is bound to move you. Their music is thoughtful but has a lot of freedom running through it. It's free but is nicely structured to allow each song to take on a specific pop/jazzy/reggae flavour of its own. In fact, many of the numbers are not just simple pop but contain clear, outright rebellious rock elements. "Mais Uma Chance" reeks of a sense of urgency and outright distrust for whatever these guys are raving about. Strong effort all around from an ensemble I hope we'll be hearing from lots more in the future.
Put together by producer/engineer Mike Pelanconi, Prince Fatty is a band that is deeply in love with dub. But not purely a dub outfit, the band also mixes up reggae, funk and jazz to come up with a nice, loosely flying concoction. Sweet vocals from Little Roy, Winston Francis and Hollie Cook grace the album. The dub side of the band comes out loud and clear on "Milk and Honey in My Dub", while the original of this same track has a tender, caressing vocals from Hollie Cook [who I'm officially putting on my radar]. There's an amazing horn section here, provided by members of Nostalgia 77 and the reverbs are nice and solid throughout. Amazingly structured with organic vibes, two-step vibes and just great all-around vibrations, "Survival of the Fattest" should be a breakout on this summer's club charts.
Raised by Cuban-immigrant parents in the US, Jose Conde is a singer/songwriter who looks back to his forefathers' music with much respect. Backed by the phenomenal Ola Fresca band, Conde truly shines on his latest release. "Revolucion" is not for those faint of heart – for people who can't stand dance music. Conde is masterful at bringing about a heavy salsa flavour into just about every song. His feel for the music is intense and the love shows through his vocals. These are both sweet and to-the-point. Equally, on a track like the tender ballad "El Chacal", they're moving and poignant. Ola Fresca is heavy in the horn department. Saxes blow the top off the roof on most pieces. Rhythm section is equally vibrant, with a variety of wildly pounding percussion being utilized. Afro-Cuban funk is heavily featured on "Ride La Ola", which comprises the phenomenal talent of Zigaboo Modeliste, while "Oshiri Pan Pan" mixes mambo and funk in equal amounts. Point is, variety rules supreme. If you're not keen on one musical category, all you need to do is skip a number and you're in seventh heaven.

- Tom Sekowski

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