Kick off with Brazil

BRAZIL - The land of hot bods, Havaianas, Christ The Redeemer and, now, the venue of the most beautiful game.

As the world's eyes converge on the largest Latin American nation for the World Cup, it's easy to invoke stereotypes but not see its amazing diversity.

This week, let's sieve fact from fiction in four Brazil-related releases.

Indie rock/Tropicalia





The equivalent of...: Watching a documentary of modern Brazil's history.

Brazilian icon Caetano Veloso, 71, co-pioneered the avant-garde Tropicalia movement in the late 1960s with folks such as Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Tom Ze and Gal Costa. He is still pushing the envelope despite his well-earned elder statesman repute.

Abracaco, which means "a big hug" in Portuguese, is the last of an inspired trilogy that is pivoted on a sparse electric trio and his own voice.

Any good?: A resounding yes. Abracaco, originally released in 2012 but now reissued with English translations, proves it is possible to be both brainy and moving.

Veloso pays tribute to Joao Gilberto, the father of bossa, in A Bossa Nova E Foda, a ruddy and decidedly funky ode with a rude title that cannot be translated here. Along the way, he name-drops mixed martial artists Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva and even Bob Dylan, whom he hails as the Jewish Bard of Minnesota.

Elsewhere, he switches modes with the grace and agility of a master: bravely skeletal on O Imperio Da Lei, a possible allusion to the murder of political activist Sister Dorothy Mae Stang, and disarmingly sensual on the gently strummed ballad Quando O Galo Cantou.

How Brazilian is this?: Very, and heroically.

Indie rock/Electronica


Arto Lindsay

Northern Spy

The equivalent of...: Chilling out at an open-air restaurant in Seminyak, Bali, munching on crab claws while watching an arthouse movie at the same time.

This double-disc retrospective juxtaposes yin-yang sides of this American expatriate: rough-edged punk missives playing off Brazilian-influenced balladry.

Any good?: A ridiculous yes. Lindsay is an acquired taste, but what taste. His perfectly imperfect voice is a gently strangled chicken's. It's foil to gorgeous balladry baste in Tropicalia.

Such pieces as Ridiculously Deep and Complicity caress as they probe.

Personagem (for Paula Hiroe) synthesizes tradition and urbanity - jaunty street rhythms with pulsating club beats as he purrs in Portuguese.

In comparison, his live performances, recorded in 2011 and 2012, are fearless.

He takes apart many of the songs and goes full punk.

Illuminated is light years away from the original in his 2002 album Invoke - as the guitars gnarl and whine, he rasps like Lou Reed's reedier cousin.

How Brazilian is this?: Enough, in a subversive way. Lindsay epitomises the transgressive, anything-goes spirit of 1970s Brazil, when it rebelled against an oppressive regime.

Original soundtrack

RIO 2 - Music from the motion picture

Various artists


The equivalent of...: Zipping through the Singapore Zoo, River and Night Safaris in an hour.

The soundtrack to the latest animated musical is a largely American-Brazilian affair, helmed by Bruno Mars' right-hand man Philip Lawrence and Brazilian legend Sergio Mendes. It's a palatable mix of singalongs and hammy theatrical numbers, while still tipping a hat to Brazilians Milton Nascimento and Carlinhos Brown.

Any good?: Yes, for both kids and adults. The future soul-dance sylph Janelle Monae asks What Is Love, leveraging on her knack for a deadly hook with smart lyrics.

The 15-member Sao Paulo group, Barbatuques, join American stars Andy Garcia and Rita Moreno in a perky Beautiful Creatures, while Bruno Mars makes his screen debut in an R&B ode called Welcome Back.

Last but not least, Anne Hathaway pops up in a show tune, Don't Go Away, showing off pristine vocals that nabbed her brownie points in Les Miz.

How Brazilian is this?: Somewhat. It's Brazilian-via-Hollywood.

Dance pop/Dance


Various Artists


The equivalent of...: Downing one too many energy drinks.

This obligatory World Cup folio runneth over with star appeal, boasting the likes of Brazil's Arlindo Cruz, America's Aloe Blacc, Norway's Adelen and Colombia's Shakira.

Its aim: To bombard you with street percussion and 10,000 back-up singers.

Any good?: Yes, if you think the idea is to wake up the whole town. We Are One (Ole Ola), featuring J. Lo, Pitbull and Brazil's Claudia Leitte, is a ho-hum urban/electro doozie with boshing beats and a chorus so insipid, you'll sing along in no time. We Will Find A Way is tagged with Santana's funky riffs and a palpable percussion section.

Thankfully, Brazil's bossa-pop darling Bebel Gilberto ups the game with Tico Tico, a coquettish samba number with playful ivory twinkling by China's piano star Lang Lang. How Brazilian is this?: More Americano, with Brazilian stars being relegated to the second tier.

This article was published on June 12 in The Straits Times.

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