Introducing: Brazilian Wax
It’s not often that such a niche event comes along to the club, so we were thrilled to receive a club-night proposal from the Brazilian Wax crew. Joe and Henry, who have been forging a lovely little bubble of Brazilian beauty with their LSR radio show and uni-based events over the past year, are committed to showcasing sounds from South America’s endlessly colourful and fascinating Portugese-speaking cultural powerhouse. We can’t wait to see what they have planned for HiFi this Thursday 3rd May. So ahead of the night we asked them to wax lyrical about their musical passion…
How did you guys meet?
JOE: Though Henry claims he can’t remember, we definitely met in fresher’s week at the Student Union bar. I remember it really well for a couple of reasons. We realised we were both in Lupton’s Block A (#lup4lyf) and the typical freshers small talk ensued but it pretty quickly became clear that we had a lot more in common than our halls of residence. I was initially pleased to hear that, while being from Manchester, Henry was, as I am, an Arsenal fan. But the main reason the conversation was particularly memorable was that we spoke predominantly about opera – particularly Purcell’s Dido And Aeneas, which isn’t really the kind of thing two freshers at a bar normally discuss. We also established pretty much straight away that we’re both obsessed with jazz.
HENRY: Yeah, Joe is partly right there. Shamefully, I don’t recall that encounter (it was during fresher’s week and I was never good with names, especially after a bottle of Shiraz) but I do remember our instant bond over jazz music. Joe lived in the flat above me in our student halls and I remember going upstairs to see if there was anyone about – I remember ending up in Joe’s room and he was listening to the Poulenc Cello Sonata whilst unpacking. His wall was covered in pictures of musicians, writers and artists, including various beat poets. There were three jazz musicians that took pride of place; Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus. When I saw these pictures I knew we were going to get on very well.
You have a show on LSR – can you tell us more about that platform?
JOE: Brazilian Wax is predominantly about being a platform for Brazilian music to be heard in its own context. While we now DJ and host events, our main purpose is to present Brazilian music in its cultural, political and historical contexts so that casual listeners can begin to understand and more fully appreciate what they’re listening to. It is important for us to show Brazil’s incredibly rich musical history through a lens that doesn’t exoticise or reduce its music to the usual tags of ‘tropical’, ‘world’ or ‘Latin’. And so, often, our shows are quite didactic in nature. In our first series we would explain and explore genres week by week, and more recently we’ve done in-depth analyses of individual artists, specific regional styles and the role of African music and religion in Brazil. Brazil is absolutely huge so you get an amazing array of sounds throughout the country – samba derives from rhythms used in West-African Candomblé ceremonies, whereas bossa nova is influenced by American jazz and Tropicália by British Invasion and prog rock. Along with its interesting cultural influences, the way politics and music in Brazil is so interlinked just makes for such an exciting dynamic. In the late 60s, Tropicália musicians were literally fighting the military dictatorship with music: Tropicália figureheads, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, got exiled to London because of the supposed threat their music posed. Another, Chico Buarque, was jailed for writing the score to a left-wing political theatre piece. Overtly left-wing musicians’ family members were being kidnapped, threatened with jail, beaten up, and they responded through creating overtly experimental, lyrically-provocative music, and through live performances that rallied the people against the military. Some of the best music ever was created in that era – both in terms of the music itself and the lyrical content and its political context. I think, for us, it’s so important that we inform people about the incredible histories a lot of Brazilian music types belonged to.
HENRY: Yeah, as Joe said LSR has been great for us and allowed us to explore so much about Brazilian music. We’ve also learnt a lot about how to produce radio shows. Our weekly show always provided a great break from the daily stress of uni, as well as it being a chance for us to catch up and discuss music. We’re excited to actually be developing our own radio platform at the moment which will be launching next year. We’ve been buying all the equipment to set up a home studio and hopefully we’ll have lots more details to announce very shortly!
‘How did you realise you were both mad keen on Brazilian music?’
JOE: I think it came about as we were both really keen to do a radio show and to do one that offered something a bit more interesting and unusual than a blanket jazz show… I’d vaguely thought about doing a Brazilian one before joining uni and Henry, being half-Brazilian, was really into the idea. In terms of how I became so mad about Brazilian music: my dad is a keen Songlines magazine subscriber and so I’d hear loads of non-English/American music growing up. The one thing that really stuck with me from overhearing what he was listening to was Seu Jorge’s America Brasil O Disco. That album was played constantly at home and a family obsession accumulated with seeing him at the Roundhouse in 2007 when I was about 10. I also played Futebol De Salão back then and each session was soundtracked by a tape of Brazilian music – so I guess it was something I heard a lot of at a fairly formative period of life. At about 15 I got really into jazz and, therefore, bossa nova as well – particularly the Getz/Gilberto albums and Jorge Ben’s Samba Esquema Novo which I asked for for Christmas. At the time it was really hard to get hold of so my parents got me a couple Tropicália compilations instead which were just totally different and initially baffling. But through them I got into Gal Costa, Os Mutantes and just the aggressive counter-cultural nature of it all. The total obsession didn’t begin necessarily until I was about 18 when I was seeing two of my favourite bands, H. Hawklike and Foxygen. I got chatting to a Brazilian couple next to me and they said that if I was into Os Mutantes and Foxygen then I should check out Novos Baianos. Novos Baianos’ second album, Acabou Chorare, was a turning point for me – as I think it was for Henry. As an album it perfectly balances the samba rock associated with Jorge Ben, the rich harmony of João Gilberto’s bossa nova and the psychedelic rock of Os Mutantes. From that moment on I was smitten.
HENRY: Unfortunately, I didn’t experience the same Brazilian musical upbringing as Joe. Though my mum is Brazilian, she seemed to be more into Dire Straits then Djavan. My love for jazz (which is the root of most of my musical interests) meant that I listened to a lot of Stan Getz (Focus is an album I can highly recommend!). I first listened to the Getz/Gilberto albums when I was 17 and have been in love with them ever since. There was a whole bossa nova phase in jazz, and my interest in the likes of Joe Henderson and Dizzy Gillespie also helped grow my interest in this. But it was Joe who got me into fully-fledged Brazilian music. Like he said, I remember him suggesting we do a Brazilian Radio show and I guess I just thought ‘why not?’. I started doing some research and talking to my mum about it – turns out she’s a huge Elis Regina fan and has some really great records at home – and she recommended me some of the best that Brazil had to offer. Joe also recommended me some music to start and it led to me immersing myself in a totally new world of music. Those first few months of discovery at uni were a really fantastic time for me and I’m so glad Joe persuaded me to do the show.
What is so special about Brazilian music for you?
HENRY: For me, it’s the huge variety of colour and style in the music. Brazil has everything – it’s a melting point for North and West African music, Western Classical and Pop and of course, its home-grown music. This means that so much Brazilian music is recognisable to westerners but also has some sort of unexpected twist. Whenever you play an album from Brazil you never know what you’re going to get. It’s a melting pot of genres. This, backed up by its turbulent history and politics, makes it a very unique country with many very special sounds.
JOE: Brazilian music is special to me partly because it’s something I somewhat grew up with. But yeah, as Henry said, the real reason Brazilian music, as an overarching thing, is so special to me is because within it there is such a variety of interesting music. The real focus on harmony in bossa nova and the incredible rhythms of samba speak to the jazz fan in me. Tropicália’s politically-charged aggression resonates with my love of punk, and Tropicália’s psychedelic, rockier leanings appeal to the parts of me that love late Beach Boys records or Love or The Doors or Foxygen.
Where does someone start if they want to get into Brazilian music?
JOE: I think initially, when people want to listen to Brazilian music, they want to listen to the type of samba that really evokes that image of sun and sand and sea and jungle so I would say Jorge Ben’s self-titled 1969 album is a really good place to start. It’s also an interesting gateway album to the psychedelia of Tropicália – something he didn’t identify with but that he undoubtedly grew alongside. Novos Baianos’ Acabou Chorare and Seu Jorge’s Carolina (Samba Esparto Fino) also really feel Brazilian in the way that initial listeners would recognise. The two Getz/Gilberto albums and Jazz Samba Encore! with Luiz Bonfá are the best ways to get into bossa nova. Banda Black Rio’s Gafieira Universal is a great starting point for Brazilian funk and disco. And for less easy but endlessly rewarding listens, check out Baden Powell & Vinicius De Morass’ Os Afro-Sambas, Chico Buarque’s Construção, Os Mutantes’ Os Mutantes (1968), Gal Costa’s two 1969 albums, Gal and Gal Costa, Hareton Salvanini’s S.P. 73 and Flora Purim’s Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly.
HENRY: Joe’s summed it up, but for me there’s only one place you should start. Listen to Novos Baianos’ Acabou Chorare. It is our favourite album and we’ve played it multiple times on the show, used it in mixes and even closed one of our nights with two tracks from it – Brasil Pandeiro and Besta É Tu. It’s an album which is guaranteed to make you smile and shuffle and, for me, it evokes the most beautiful image of Brazil. Start there and then you’ll never go back.