Though Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 were mainstream pop stars, or pretty close to it, when I was growing up I have not been a huge bossa nova fan. Sure, The Girl from Ipanema is catchily iconic and all that. But on the whole the genre has always struck me as being full of clichés and not very adventurous. Yet, slowly, in recently times my attitudes are changing to this most famoso Brazilian music.
The Ipamenas are a kind of blending of Toto, Cream, Elvis Presley and the Buena Vista Social Club in that they are supergroup, marcante session players, founding fathers of a revolutionary style of musicality and senior citizens! And though the individual ingredients I have identified may leave you scratching your head and turning off, I urge you not to. Wilson Des Neves (vocals/percussion) and Neco (acoustic guitar/vocals) are two of Brazil’s legendary musicians, each highly successful as solo artists and masters of their instruments. In the 1950s both men were regular studio session men at CBS in Brazil where they developed bossa nova, reworking the new sounds of boleros, rumbas and American jazz into traditional samba . They played alongside heroes of the Brazilian music scene including Baden Powell, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque and João Gilberto.
So good were the duo that in the early 60s they were given the chance to make a record on their own under their chosen name of The Ipamenas. Though well received they were not given the money to make a follow up album and so Wilson and Neco returned to playing solo or in other people’s bands. Nearly 30 years later in a tale similar to Ry Cooder’s journey to Cuba, an American producer named Joe Davis, re-discovered them while on a trip to Brazil. Several albums came out including this their 3rd (or 4th depending on when you start counting), Samba is Our Gift.
Samba is indeed Brazil’s gift to the world. Much more than a mere musical genre, it is a lifestyle, an expression of cultural and national identity, an attitude, a way of dressing, a culinary form and a ‘greater good’. Every year, the 2nd of December is marked as National Samba Day!
As a musical form its roots are deeply embedded in the soil of West Africa from which so many modern day Brasileiros’ ancestors came in slave ships. The modern samba that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century is predominately in a 2/4 tempo varied with the conscious use of a sung chorus to a batucada rhythm, with various stanzas of declaratory verses. Traditionally, the samba is played by strings (cavaquinho and various types of guitar) and various percussion instruments such as tamborim. Influenced by American orchestras in vogue since the Second World War and the cultural impact of US music post-war, samba began to use trombones, trumpets, choros, flutes, and clarinets.
This is a very cool record. I listen to it a lot and commend it to you one and all. Especially those who are slightly suspicious of bossa nova.
02 Malandro Quando Vaza
04 Samba Pra Mim Mesmo
06 San Roque
08 Folia No Samba
09 Samba D
10 Treze, Trinta E Nove
11 O Samba É O Meu Dom