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Saturday, 8 September, 2001, 04:46 GMT 05:46 UK
Exporting bossa nova back to Brazil
Marcos Valle
Marcos Valle's career has been given a new lease of life
By BBC News Online's Alex Webb

The British have always been famously resistant to music not sung in English - most recently when the Lambada craze all but passed this country by.

But now Britain is one of the launch pads for a new wave of Brazilian music which brings together the undulating, summery sounds of Rio rhythm with the contemporary feel of drum loops and electronics.

This musical movement - which, for want of a better term, is often called "nova bossa nova" - has led to a renewed interest in a clutch of Brazilian artists who have been all but forgotten in Brazil.

Bebel Gilberto
Bebel: Following in father's footsteps
Singer Bebel Gilberto - whose father Joćo virtually invented the original bossa nova in the late 1950s - exemplifies the paradoxes of the new movement.

Her album Tanto Tempo has sold nearly 400,000 copies since its release last year, but only 20,000 of this total in Brazil.


On Tanto Tempo, Gilberto collaborates with the British group Smoke City, whose Brazilian flavoured jingle for a 1997 Levi's commercial was one of the first signs of the new music breaking cover.

But the roots of the new wave go back to London clubland in the late 1980s.

Smoke City
Smoke City: Fronted by Brazilian Nina Miranda
Joe Davis, whose London record label Far Out has released some of the major nova bossa nova records, was a DJ at the time.

"I used to be a DJ in acid jazz clubs alongside people like Gilles Peterson and we started playing Brazilian music in these clubs," he told BBC News Online.


"People would ask me what these tracks were - next thing I'm going to Brazil ten times a year to buy records and sell them to DJs back here.

"I finally got bored of doing that and by then I'd met a lot of artists and brought them over for shows - I saw a niche to do some classic but contemporary Brazilian music here."

The Far Out stable includes Marcos Valle and Joyce, both of whose careers had been languishing in Brazil until they were rediscovered in Europe.

Patrick Forge
DJ Patrick Forge, of London group Da Lata
Joyce's new album Gafieira Moderna even includes a song about the Manchester jazz club Band On The Wall - one of her favourite venues.

Another important label is Belgian-based Ziriguiboom, which records Bebel Gilberto, Bossacucanova and Zuco 103.


Ziriguiboom releases often focus on the marriage between Brazilian and electronic rhythms, sometimes matching classic bossa nova songs from the 1950s with contemporary backing tracks.

It can be an effective combination - but the chemistry is delicate, according to Joe Davis: "Brazilian music has its own swing and I find it frustrating when dance producers use these rhythms in completely the wrong way and put a great big, banging beat over the top."

Watching developments in Britain with interest is Vicente Lou, editor of London Brazilian monthly Leros.

Nova bossa nova artists
Bossacucanova (Ziriguiboom)
Da Lata (Palm Pictures)
Joyce (Far Out)
Suba (Ziriguiboom)
Marcos Valle (Far Out)
Moreno Veloso (Palm Pictures)
Zuco 103 (Ziriguiboom)
"The new music has managed to unite the universal appeal of bossa nova with some funky beats and make it more danceable - and it's succeeded," Mr Lou told BBC News Online.

"Funnily enough, these artists are hardly known in Brazil - they don't appeal to Brazilians because they're revisiting a style which is classic but Brazilians are obsessed with novelty."

So while Brazil remains an extremely fertile breeding ground for new musical styles, it is in Europe that some of the classic music of the past is being rejuvenated by contemporary sounds and production.

In today's pop era of heavy beats, rasping raps and tough images it seems that the sinuous melodies and clever harmonies of Brazil still have an enduring appeal.

Listen to Marcos Valle
Maria, Mariana
See also:

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Bossa Nova star dies
15 Feb 99 | Americas
Dancing the samba beat
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