Apart from the United States, the only other country in the Western Hemisphere that listens to more of its own homegrown music than imported international music is Brazil. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that, with over 200 million residents, Brazil is the second-most populous country in the hemisphere; some can be attributed to the South American country’s noted penchant for tariffs and protectionism, but the fact remains, Brazil is one massive musical country.
So how, then, does one approach a compilation of Novíssima Música Brasileira, which translates simply to “brand new Brazilian music,” which it obviously consists of, but since it’s only 18 tracks long, can’t be a comprehensive guide too.
Of course the album’s curator already thought of this, and far from being a slapdash, random assortment of passinho, Novíssima Música Brasileira itself is the name of a genre.
Marcelo Monteiro is a journalist from Rio, a long-time friend to Afropop, and also the man behind this new compilation. Working for the blog Amplificador, Monteiro and his colleagues used the term to lump together the new bands of the ’10s. As he told Afropop’s Sam Backer, they’re “a connected, digger, independent, eclectic, mixer-machine generation…and very importantly, totally full of bands from all over Brazil.”
Which is to say that, despite being released by Sony Rio, the music is from the nation’s independent bands and its underground. In Monteiro’s own estimation, “Novíssima música Brasileira is definitely not popular,” however, “we have good audience on the Web, at shows, festivals, bars, parties.”
So what can you expect? Many of the artists appeared on the 2015 mixtape that Monteiro made for Afropop. It feels fitting to write about this music for an international audience, considering the artists themselves so clearly have an ear to the rest of the world, while nevertheless remaining unmistakably Brazilian.
Abayomy delivers the slower groovier side of Afrobeat, while Iconili delivers the forceful chaos, and the vast space of the bouncing of delayed guitars. The Baggios bring forceful garage rock, while the Muddy Brothers sound like living proof that those Led Zeppelin records are still in circulation in Brazil. Graveola and Ive Seixas both deliver reggae by way of Brazilian musical legend Gilberto Gil.
Even if Sara Nao Tem Nome sounds nearly as C86-inspired as a Scottish band like Camera Obscura (if you can ignore the singing in Portuguese, that is), the compilation does a great job of demonstrating how unmistakably “of their homeland” these artists remain, no matter what other influences they’re playing with. “Filme” by O Quadro is a hip-hop track built not on samples of American soul and r&b but on a Brazilian palette—licks of acoustic guitars bounced to your ear by the requisite heavy bass. Mohandas has shuffling synthesizers emerging over a heavily backbeated groove, buzzing bass and licks of guitar where big choro ensembles filled sonic space not quite a century ago.
In this respect, the artists of Novíssima Música Brasileira take their place as heirs to the Tropicalia movement. Inspired by the poet Oswald de Andrade’s “Cannibalist Manifesto,” they operated according to the belief that Brazil was at its best when eats other cultures. For the tropicalismos that included international peers like the Beatles, and for the practitioners of NMB, it now includes nibbling the tropicalismos.