Says Don Day Don Dree Don Don: Adventures in Samba Soul
Márcio Local stands at the crossroads of two great traditions in modern Brazilian music, with one foot in samba, the heavily percussive Afro-Brazilian dance music that took its modern form in the early twentieth century, and the other in soul, the African American music rooted in the blues that attracted a mass audience in Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s. Once regarded as a faddish import, soul music has been effectively Brazilianized such that it now constitutes a local tradition in big cities like São Paulo and Márcio’s home town of Rio de Janeiro. Márcio has also discovered ways to combine these two traditions to forge new variations of samba-soul by exploring the ever-expanding modern soundscape of Rio. He is also something of a sensual romantic who makes music thinking about lazy Saturday afternoons at the beach, a game of soccer, the drama of sexual seduction, and the bustle of the urban scene. In this way, he belongs to another tradition in Brazilian music that celebrates the pleasures of everyday life and the redemptive power of a catchy tune.
To get a sense of where Márcio Local’s sound comes from, we might begin by noting that he was born in 1976 in Realengo, a working-class neighborhood on the north side of Rio. Realengo is also home to the samba school Padre Miguel, widely regarded as having the tightest and most inventive bateria, the massive drum corps that parade behind the lavish floats during carnival. Realengo achieved a measure of fame when the tropicalist singer-songwriter (and recently, Minister of Culture) Gilberto Gil gave a shout-out to that community in his 1969 hit “Aquele Abraço”: “Alô alô Realengo, aquele abraço/ toda a torcida de Flamengo, aquele abraço”. In rhyming “Realengo” with “Flamengo”, Rio’s most beloved soccer team, Gil was celebrating the intimate connections between modern samba, largely a product of Rio’s north side, and futebol, Brazil’s national sport. Gil’s samba owed an obvious debt to his contemporary, Jorge Ben (later Benjor), a Rio native famous for his gleeful tributes to local popular culture, Brazil’s soccer heroes, and to his favorite team, Flamengo. Some years later, both Gil and Jorge would play leading roles in popularizing new combinations of samba, soul, and funk. On nearly every track of Márcio Local Says, “Don day don dree don don”: Adventures in Samba Soul, we can hear the echoes of Ben’s irresistible soul samba grooves from the sixties and seventies. It comes as no surprise that he also shares Ben’s diehard enthusiasm for Flamengo.
On this album Márcio Local pays homage to earlier generations of black artists in Brazil who forged new combinations of R&B, soul, and funk with samba, bossa nova, and other Brazilian sounds. He collaborated with producer Armando Pittigliani, who worked with Jorge Ben at the beginning of his career in the 1960s. Anyone who is familiar with early 1970s Jorge Ben will immediately recognize his influence in the album’s title track which revolves Ben’s favorite themes: “Salve o Sol/ E o Futebol/ Salve o Mar/ E o carnaval/ Mas salve a cor e a beleza/ Carioca da gema” (Praise the Sun/ and soccer/ Praise the sea/ and carnival/ praise the color and beauty/ of the Rio native). In other songs we hear the sound of Wilson Simonal, known in the late 1960s has the rei do pilantragem—the king of hustlers. Pilantragem was a playful style of soul samba, bolstered by a fat horn section, often involving risqué double entendre and flirtatious boasting. Márcio revives this sound in songs like “Ela não tá nem aí” (She pays no mind) and one of his local hits, “Happy Endings”.
By the time Márcio Local was born, the north side had emerged as the epicenter of a new cultural movement dubbed “Black Rio,” which attracted thousands of young people, mostly black, to all-night dance parties with soundtracks that were heavy on soul and funk. Although rarely articulated in explicitly political or racial terms, the “Black Rio” scene provided young Afro-Brazilians a new vocabulary and style to express a distinctly “black” identity in a country that officially celebrated a kind of non-racialism that often obscured deep inequalities and prejudices. The house band of this movement was the famous Banda Black Rio, led by a family friend, saxophonist Oberdan Magalhães, who used to take Márcio to hear the group at the community center of Realengo. He came of age in a neighborhood where you could start your evening at midnight gyrating to one of Rio’s best samba schools and watch the sunrise over a hundreds of kids with the latest moves grooving to James Brown and Brazil’s legendary soul singer Tim Maia. In the 1980s rock and reggae also entered the mix and by the 1990s, a vibrant home-grown dance hall culture exploded around the electronic beats of the bailes funk. All of this—roots samba, soul, funk, reggae, rap and the bailes funk—all inform Márcio’s sound. There is a touch of nostalgia in his music, but he also succeeds in rereading soul samba in innovative and even unusual ways. Listen for example to “Suingue Dominou” (Swing Took Over) featuring a heavily reverbed slide guitar played with the side of a screwdriver.
Today Márcio makes his home in Santa Teresa, a sprawling mixed income neighborhood known for its vibrant artistic scene that flows off the sides of a massive hill located at a geographical crossroads of the city. Descending north leads to Realengo, a short trolley ride east links the hilltop community with the downtown, while the southern end flows into the largely middle-class south zone, home the most celebrated beaches like Ipanema, where Márcio hangs out on the weekends. Santa Teresa is often considered “out of the way” because it involves a long, steep trek that the local taxi drivers are famously loathe to make. At the same time, it is a space of social and cultural mediation and integration, much like Márcio’s music, which has attracted diverse audiences from around the city.
Many of the reports from Rio today speak of narco-gang warfare, police repression, and the general dissolution of the social fabric. The denunciation of violence has inevitably emerged as a key theme in a lot of the contemporary culture of urban Brazil today. This context lurks in the background of Márcio’s songs, but he constantly reminds us that Rio is also a place of beauty, revelry, and hope. His tunes are populated by hustlers with street savvy, triumphant soccer stars, fantastically talented dancers, and elegant black women– as in “Preta Luxo” (Black Lady Luxury). These songs celebrate a Rio de Janeiro steeped in Afro-Brazilian traditions, yet constantly devouring and reinventing new sounds and styles. With Márcio Local Says, “Don day don dree don don”: Adventures in Samba Soul, Márcio Local takes the stage as an inspired innovator of the samba soul tradition. In own words, his music offers “a mixture of Jorge Benjor, Seu Jorge, Banda Black Rio, Wilson Simonal, but model 2009, 4×4 and turbocharged.”
| 1. Samba Sem Nenhum Problema
2. Preta Luxo
3. Happy Endings
4. Soul Do Samba
5. Sentimento Rei
6. Minha Rosa
| 7. Quem Pode, Pode
9. Ela Náo Tá Nem Aí
11. Suingue Dominou
May 12, 2009