Brazil is a beautiful country. The first time I traveled there, I couldn't stop myself from thinking that it should be more than an emerging market. It seemed to have all the necessary ingredients to be much more advanced economically and socially.
It is also a country full of contrasts. Its people seem friendly and warm. Still, crime statistics would lead you to a different conclusion. It is a population that has endured a lot of pain and suffering. A lot of that has been inflicted by its own government at different times. Still, considering the past 25 years, it appears that Brazil may finally have been able to raise itself to a higher level. That is, if politics does not drag it back down again.
Brazilian population is diverse. Even among its large share of those of African descent, there was and still is a diverse ethnicity. That resulted from the ugly history of Portuguese slave trading. Add to that the fact that many poor European immigrants also shared the same economic class: the result was a mass blending of cultures and families that led to a uniqueness that is specific to Brazil, today. Much of Brazil's music reflects its ethnic and racial diversity.
Brazil is a country of music and dance. Its music scene might be as diverse as any country's around the world. Genres commonly associated with Brazil include samba, bossa nova, MPB, sertanejo, pagode, tropicalia, choro, maracatu, embolada (coco de repente), mangue bit, funk carioca (in Brazil simply known as funk), frevo, forró, axé, brega, lambada. American musical genres like jazz, blues, folk, and country have also been added to the mix. Over time, this cauldron of music has continued to create new sounds that either prove interesting or fall by the way. To explore the various styles of Brazilian music is a subject that goes well beyond the confines of this article. Still, the idea that musical styles in parts of Brazi, like the state of Bahia, share some of the same roots as blues from the American south is fascinating. Blues in Brazil, however, is more the result of American music being introduced into the Brazilian music scene. Brazilians constantly exploring new music led to some taking an interest in the blues.
American music was always of interest to some young Brazilians. Brazil and particularly Rio de Janeiro were always a place that performers could go to get away. Janis Joplin went there to try to kick her heroin addiction in 1969. Mick Jagger and others were also known to go to Brazil from time to time. No doubt, the attention that went along with these visits led to some Brazilians curious about the music to dig deep. The blues then became the focus for some musicians.
Some key Brazilian blues artists
Blues in its purest form began to grow in popularity in the 1980s. Artists such as Celso Blues Boy, Blues Etílicos (featuring Flávio Guimarães), and André Christóvam led the growth. Nuno Mindelis came to prominence in the 1990s. Each came to the blues in their own way.
Celso Ricardo Furtado de Carvalho, better known as Celso Blues Boy, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1956. His stage name, "Blues Boy", is a homage to his idol, BB King. While having performed since 1970, he formed his first Brazilian blues rock band in 1980, called Aero Blues. He later went solo and released his debut album in 1984: Som na Guitarra. In addition to further recordings (nine studio albums in total), Celso Blues Boy has also made an international appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Celso Blues Boy died from cancer on August 6, 2012.
The Blues Etílicos are a Brazilian blues band formed in Rio de Janeiro in 1985. The band initially included harmonica player Flávio Guimarães, bass player Claudio Bedran and guitar player Otavio Rocha. A few months later singer and guitarist Greg Wilson and drummer Eduardo Gil joined the band. The Blues Etílicos recorded their first album in 1987. San Ho Zay is still considered the best selling Brazilian blues album of all time. The Blues Etílicos were the first and the main national band to create a loyal following in this segment. Flávio Guimarães began his solo career in 1996. The band continued to perform. The Blues Etílicos have released 12 CDs, 6 of which studio albums.
Guitarist André Christóvam was born in Sao Paulo. He is considered one of the country's pioneers and top guitarists in blues music. Christóvam studied music at the renowned Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles (GIT) in the 1980s, becoming the first Brazilian to graduate from that school. He recorded his first solo album Mandiga in 1989: Brazilian blues with all lyrics in Portuguese. He recorded with Taj Mahal at his Heineken Concerts at the Bourbon Street Blues Club in Sao Paulo, Brazil. André Christóvam has recorded five solo studio albums.
Born in Angola, Nuno Mindelis is ethnically Portuguese. He was forced along with his family to flee Angola because of the civil war in the mid 1970s, at the age of 17. He spent a year living with a cousin in Montreal, Canada in 1975, until was finally able to arrive in Brazil in 1976. Mindelis came to prominence in the 1990s with his first album Blues and Dirivados. He is now recognized by most in Brazil as being their best blues guitarist. He was also recognized by Guitar Magazine as being among the worldwide elite in a 1998 competition. Over the course of his career, Mindelis has recorded two albums in the late 1990s with Double Trouble (Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton). His most recent album was recorded with Duke Robillard's Band and was produced by Robillard himself. Nuno Mindelis has recorded a total of eight studio albums so far.
Brazilians are musically creative so you would expect, with all the musical influences in the country, a substantial amount of experimentation. Some of the experimental efforts have involved blending blues in ways that incorporate the traditional genres, while others have just been the result of thinking differently. Here are some that are worth listening to:
- The Blues Etilicos - multiple influences in this song.
- Facção Caipira (Rio de Janeiro) - this is a fascinating mix of Brazilian country and blues.
- Álvaro Assmar & Mojo Blues Band (Salvador, Bahia) - Forro Blues is more of a style than a song. It mixes the usual blues guitar with the accordion, common in forro.
- Nuno Mindelis (Sao Paulo) - duet with Brazilian rapper Rappin' Hood in Tenho Medo.
- Leandro Ferrari (Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais) - a psychedelic take on the blues: Blind Dog.
- Vasco Faé (Sao Paulo)- playing Crossroads as a one-man band.
- Celso Blues Boy - Brilho Da Noite
- Celso Blues Boy - Mississippi (with BB King)
- Celso Blues Boy - A special moment with BB King in 1986
- Blues Etílicos - Cerveja
- Blues Etílicos - Misty Mountain
- Flávio Guimarães & Rodrigo Mantovani
- André Christóvam - Genuíno pedaço de Cristo
- André Christóvam - Dance with Me
- Nuno Mindelis - It's All About Love - Official Video
- Nuno Mindelis - Funky Mama
- Nuno Mindelis - Feeling All Right
There are also a number of other prominent blues artists in Brazil. Here are just a few that caught my attention.