Tropicalia

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Tropicalia ou Panis Et Circensis was the manifesto to the Tropicalia movement that Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil started along with Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, Tom Ze and others in the late 60’s. In addition to being incredibly outspoken against the military dictatorship that silenced any form of expression and stripped people of their freedoms, they also set out to revolutionize form in addition to content. In all artforms involved in this movement (Theater, Cinema Novo, Poetry, Visual Arts, Music, etc…) they welcomed outside influences influences and embrassed them. Brazilian music at the time was overly-nationalist and frowned upon any outside influence. Artists like Caetano, Gil, and Os Mutantes rejected this idealogy and borrowed heavily from artists like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, etc… Rogerio Duprat, the arranger of most of the albums during this time including this one, lived in France to study directly from Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez just as Quincy Jones did. It was through all these influences a new sound was created. This movement was shortlived though, due to the government jailing and eventually exiling Caetano and Gil on December 27th, 1968. The 2 lived in London until they were allowed back in 1972. Caetano wrote this about the effects of the movement in his book
‘Tropical Truth: A Story of Music & Revolution in Brazil’…

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“We had not attained socialism, had not even found its human face; neither had we entered the Age of Aquarius or the Kingdom of the Holy Ghost; we had not overcome the West, had not rooted out racism or abolished sexual hypocrisy. But things would never be as they had been.”

After Tropicalia there was complete acceptance to inovation in the arts in Brazil. People were granted more freedom of expression, and artists were no longer censored. The political system even got better. There is a great documentary that is available online that you should definately check out called ‘Brazil, The Tropicalist Revolution’.

There are a ton of Brazilian blogs out there that have an overwhelming amount of rare and incredible records. You can spend days at Loronix, Som Barato, Brazilian Nuggets, Quimsy’s Mumbo Jumbo, Sabadabada, Na Onda Do Samba, Sounds of the 70’s, J Thyme kind, Abracadabra, Som Do Bom, Capsula da Cultura and Toque Musical.
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Soul Jazz put out an incredible comp last year called ‘Tropicalia A Brazilian Revolution in Sound’. To keep the forum going and with an attempt to get more people involved, only registered users in the forum will recieve the link to this unbelievable record. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, go now…

Masekela!

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Masekela continues on with the revolucionary African music theme. The back of the record says it all ‘The music contained herein speaks for itself. Nothing more need be added. All there remains to do is to do.’ There are so many strong stongs on this record. It starts with Mace and Grenades, which talks about the harsh realities of the times (1968) and says ‘It looks like It’s be safer to be in Jail…I’m in jail out here’. ‘Gold’, which you already heard on Bobbito’s mix cd, is about the oppression during the apartheid, and how South Africans are essentially forced into slave labor mining for gold and diamonds, and see nothing in return. Even the instrumentals have incredible titles…’Blues for Huey (Newton), and Riot. The record ends with the incredible. ‘If There’s Anybody Out There’.

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BBE just released ‘The Chisa Years (Rare and Unreleased 1965-1975)’. I can’t recomend it enough. If you don’t know BBE(Barely Breaking Even) is an ill label out of London, and they’ve been putting out solid releases for a minute, so support them! They’re selling the cd for 5 pounds, or you can get it on itunes, or of course on vinyl. When this came out over a year ago, Wax Poetics hosted a remix competition for the song Mahlalela, and of course, being a trumpet player who does remixes, I did one. It didn’t get picked…I like to think that it’s because they didn’t get it in time. (I sent it the night before the cutoff day, went to sleep, woke up to see that it didn’t get sent. So I wrote a letter, re-sent it sucessfully, but never heard from them.) Either way, I play it out on a regular, and I always get people running to the dj booth ‘Where’d you get this remix?!’ So here it is…

Hugh Masekela was close with Fela, and he actually wrote ‘Fela’ in tribute to him. The two were very similar in many ways. Hugh was exiled from South Africa in 1960 during the Apartheid for 30 years, along with many other musicians from South Africa. (Among them his wife, Miriam Makeba) There is an incredible documentary that I urge all of you to check out called ‘Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony’.

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In short, it talks about how music was instrumental (excuse the pun) in lifting the Apartheid. In one point of the film, they actually talk about how they weren’t able to post notices around town or announcements with directions to the next protest/demonstration. So they would actually sing in Zulu the directions to the protest, and the song would get sung throughout the country. The British had no idea what they were singing, and this was one way that they would communicate. Many of the musicians would regularly visit and write to Nelson Mandela while he was in prison and write lyrics based on that. This is one of the reasons so many musicians were exiled. Years later Masekela wrote ‘Bring him back home’ and was the anthem of the Free Nelson Mandela Movement in the 80’s. There were a ton of other huge songs written for him as well such as The Specials ‘Free Nelson Mandela’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’, among many more. It became a trend in the 80’s and all the songs, tribute concerts, and press shined a huge spotlight on what England was doing. It essentially shamed them into lifting the apartheid. Hopefully this model, now being used to shine a light on the genocide in Sudan, will continue to work. (A huge Sudan post is coming, don’t worry)
It is a perfect example on how music is, as Fela said ‘The Weapon’.

Music Is The Weapon

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Squinting? Click on this link to see it blown up

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Here it is! The first of a series of posts that will include all 4 limited edition box sets that Barclay put out a few years back that has since been out of print, of hands down the greatest revolucionary musician to come out of Africa. If you didn’t act fast a few years back, you might have a hard time finding these now. Each volume has 6 remastered records, 6 color postcards of his ‘queens’ , and the first volume comes with a 10 page 12″ booklet which I have scanned and you can download it here. Most of these records have been re-issued, but it can still take some serious amount of time (and $) to track them down. I’m assuming most of you know Fela, but I’m still continually suprised at how many people have no idea who he was. If you don’t know, he was an Nigerian musician who played stretched out endless grooves that would last at times hours. He formed an autonomous commune that he named the Kalakuta Republic and declared it independant of the Nigerian government, which was a trigger happy puppet dictatorship put in power by all the multi-national oil companies, of which would hire local Nigerians to literally machine gun anyone down who was in opposition. Fela lived his life speaking out against all the attrocities that the Nigerian government committed, and set up a nightclub called Afro-spot and then The Shrine in which he performed on a regular basis. The Shrine also was a hub for the community and was a learning center on everything from the Yoruba religion to politics. He was considered public enemy # 1 by the Nigerian government, and they did everything in their power to stop him. They arrested him on any charge they could, invaded the Kalakuta Republic with 1000 soldiers burning it all down(including his recording studio and tons of master tapes), threw his mother out of a window causing fatal injuries, and beat him almost to death and imprisoned him countless times. Stirring up more controversy, he married 27 women at one time, who he called ‘Fela’s Queens’. Most of them sang and danced for him. The Fela vs. State conflict only worsened over time and, he eventually created his own political party called M.O.P. Movement of the People and ran for presidency unsuccessfully. Even with all of these struggles, he was incredibly prolific and has left behind a huge musical legacy. There is a great documentary called Music Is The Weapon, that has some incredible footage, and gives an in more depth view on his life. (that link is the full 52 minute documentary in quicktime format ready for your ipod/itunes)

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These are the 6 albums that are included in the first box set. Open And Close, Gentleman, and the anthemic Upside Down featuring Sandra Akane Isidore (the woman who introduced Fela to The Black Panthers in ’69) are up. Now Yellow Fever, J.J.D., and I.T.T. are up. All the files have the full album artwork embedded, so when you add it to your itunes it will already show up. I do this for every record I post, and with this box set I’ve also embedded the full booklet at high resolution so you can blow it up and read it. There has been quite a few blogs that have posted other Fela records. So, until I get the rest uploaded, check them out. The one that seems to have the most Fela is Oufar Khan. He’s got Shakara, Confusion, Afro-Desiac, Music of Many Colors with Roy Ayers, No Agreement, Expensive Shit, He Miss Road, etc… Metrobase has the Ginger Baker record as well as the incredible Nigeria 70′ comp. I’m sure there is more, if anyone knows of any please post a link in the comments.