All eyes remain on Brazil as the 2014 FIFA World Cup final approaches this weekend. Millions of ears are tuning in to the country’s signature music, too.
The tournament’s 64 matches are being played in 12 different cities, exposing football fans to the country’s myriad sights, sounds and flavors -- from Manaus and Fortaleza, to Salvador and Porto Alegre.
“Hosting such a widespread World Cup gives tourists access to Brazilian music they wouldn’t normally hear, and not just in Rio and São Paulo,” said Simon Fuller, head of the Kappamakki Music Agency. “This is a showcase moment.”
The music of Brazil is as diverse as its terrain. Samba and its jazzy, debonair offspring, bossa nova, share the airwaves with forró, axé, sertanejo and technobrega. Genres vary widely by region, with sonic splashes of everything from country, reggae and punk, to pop, hip-hop and funk -- but all are rooted in rhythm. “When you think Brazilian music, you think percussion,” Fuller said.
“It causes you to move something -- you’re tapping your toes at first and wiggling your butt before you know it,” added Mario Caldato, Jr., a São Paulo-born, Los Angeles-bred music producer who has worked with both international stars like the Beastie Boys and Beck and a who’s-who roster of top Brazilian artists. “When you go to a club and Brazilian music comes on, you can’t help but move around. It’s very infectious, it overcomes you. And it’s happy music. It’s a necessary fuel for the people that’s cherished and shared.”
Authenticity is another hallmark of the Brazilian catalog. Fans throughout the South American nation take pride in their homeland’s rich musical legacy and are as loyal to their favorite artists as they are their football heroes.
“Brazilians don’t really care about big hits,” says Priscilla Brasil, who manages technobrega singer Gaby Amarantos. “The middle and upper class likes music from the U.S., but the lower class only listens to Brazilian music. Lyrics are very important… if they don’t understand the words, it’s a block for them.”
Fuller says Brazilian music accounts for approximately 70 percent of the country’s total sales, compared to 30 percent for European and American music. “Fifteen or so years ago, those percentages were reversed,” he adds, noting Brazil's booming middle class and the rapid adoption of mobile and digital technology. “Now, music travels around the country much faster.”
There’s also a strong appetite for live music in Brazil. Thanks to the country’s vast landscape, bands can tour for two years without visiting the same city twice. “Artists here can get big without becoming huge,” Fuller adds.
Rooted in Rhythm
Brazil’s musical melting pot fuses African drumming with European and Indian influences, explains Celso Alvim of Monobloco, a percussion ensemble that got its start in 2000 performing on the streets of Rio during Carnival.
“This relates to the World Cup spirit because it’s a time of getting together with people from all over the world,” he says via phone from Fortaleza, hours after Brazil and Mexico played to a draw in a group stage match. “Everybody wants to connect with the Brazilian spirit and join the Brazilian party… and music is a big part of that.”
Over the last year, Monobloco has brought the Brazilian party to more than a dozen countries as part of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour and has performed at VIP events and official “fan fests” in the tournament’s host cities. They’ll take the stage at Copacabana Beach this weekend.
For many Trophy Tour performances -- including the September 2013 kickoff in Rio, in the shadows of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue -- the group was joined onstage by Amarantos and David Correy, who they collaborated with on Coke’s anthem for the FIFA World Cup.
Monobloco’s percussive groove anchors the celebratory track, which was first recorded with Amarantos’ Portuguese vocals and released in Brazil in June 2013 as “Todo Mundo.” A few months later, Coke introduced the song as its global FIFA World Cup anthem with English lyrics sung by Brazilian-born singer David Correy.
“We wanted to create something authentically Brazilian but that would appeal to the masses and be hooky enough to have a stadium sing along to the chorus,” said Caldato, who Coke tapped to produce the song.
They needed a strong female voice that represented the youth of Brazil. Amarantos was the unanimous choice.
“Gaby symbolizes both her audience and what Coke represents,” Fuller explains. “She has a great story, and her music channels happiness and optimism.”
Monobloco, from Rio, and Amarantos, who grew up in the delta of the Amazon, had performed together before at Carnival and for an MTV Brazil concert. Their chemistry in the studio was immediate.
“North Brazil and South Brazil are almost different countries when it comes to music, so putting them together was an interesting way of producing an authentic sound,” Brasil said.
Throughout the nine-month, 90-country tour, Coke’s anthem, “The World is Ours,” brought the music of Brazil to the world. Along the way, more than 120 musicians and producers recorded 24 local versions of the song in 22 languages. The interpretations have reached more than 175 countries.
“‘The World is Ours’ has more stamps in its passport than any other song out there,” said Joe Belliotti, Coke’s head of global music marketing. “The world has put its fingerprints on this anthem, which has taken different shapes with each interpretation.”
For example, the Middle East version layers traditional instruments over Monobloco’s drumming, and artists in Japan added a reggae bridge for their take. “Everyone liked our groove and reacted to it by putting their ideas on top,” Alvim says. “It’s really nice to see how one idea from Brazil went all over the world and eventually came back home.” Listen to the international versions here.
Caldato agrees, calling it a “full-circle” experience. “It was my first time working on a global project like this,” he says. “To see the transformation and impact -- how people around the world have connected with others through the music, melody and lyrics, and to now see it return to Brazil -- is incredible.”
A few days before the start of the tournament, Caldato -- whose wife is Brazilian -- was vacationing in Rio with his family when a Coke commercial came on TV.
“My daughters said, ‘Daddy, they’re playing your song!’," he recalls. "And I thought, ‘Wow, it made it!’”
The anthem and the tour have provided great exposure for Amarantos, Correy and Monobloco. “For us, it has been an honor to serve as ambassadors of Brazilian music,” Alvim said of the experience.
Brasil is booking an international tour for Amarantos, whose fan base continues to expand beyond her homeland. “The last year has been amazing,” she said. “Latin America was never in our plans before, but after the Trophy Tour, we discovered people really connected with Brazilian music and with Gaby.”
Winning over music fans around the world won’t be easy, mainly due to the language barrier. But the success of bossa nova artists like Sérgio Mendes, who crossed over to international audiences by singing in half English, half Portuguese, and Astrud Gilberto, whose English performance of “Girl from Ipanema" put Brazilian music on the global map in the '60s, prove it’s possible.
“It’s tough in the U.S., but places like France, Italy and England are more open to it,” Caldato says. “Even though they don’t understand the lyrics, they’ll put on Brazilian records because they just love the vibe.”
“It’s just a matter of more people hearing it,” he concludes, “because when you hear it, you get bitten.”
Listen: ‘The Sounds of Brazil’ by Mario Caldato, Jr.
“Brazilian music has always been in my life,” says Caldato, who was born in São Paulo to a Brazilian mother and an Italian father. He moved to Los Angeles when he was two. “The Brazilian vibe has always been there,” he adds. “My first records are Brazilian, and I grew up with a lot of Brazilian friends.”
In 1995, he toured South America with the Beastie Boys. The first show was in Brazil, a homecoming for Caldato. “It was a special trip that gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my roots,” he recalls. The band fell in love with Brazilian music, as well, loading up on records to bring back home.
Planet Hemp, a Brazilian rock/hip-hop group that opened for the Beasties in Rio, invited Caldato to produce their next record. Since then, he has worked with a range of Brazilian artists and divides his time between L.A. and Brazil.
A few weeks ago, between recording sessions in São Paulo with Seu Jorge, he compiled this Brazilian music primer for us. The Spotify playlist below includes music from the ‘60's to 2010, including many tracks he produced.