5 vinyl gems that inspired the sounds
of Alma Tropicália

For all you here in the mid-Atlantic with the winter blues, let Alma Tropicália bring you some sunshine. The psych-rock band, heavily influenced by the Brazilian counterculture movement recently released a two-song single that recalls the sounds of the aforementioned era. The band plays at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club this Sunday, February 22.

Opening for a range of acts such as Jorge Ben and DC’s own Chopteeth, Tropicália features jazz vocalist Elin. With her bandmates Elin creates an experience that highlights an alternative rhythm within the DMV’s musical ecosystem. Founder, and drummer, Ben Takis took a moment out of his schedule to share 5 albums that inspired the samba and dream-pop that resonates from Alma Tropicália’s stage.

O Bidú – Silêncio no Brooklin – Jorge Ben (1967) | There’s no higher figure in Brazilian music than Jorge Ben, and nobody we idolize more (opening for Jorge Ben at the Howard Theatre in November 2013 was surely one of the highlights of my life). Although this is not Jorge’s best album, I’ve always been fascinated by it, particularly the final track “Si Manda” (a misspelling of what should be ‘Se Manda’ in Portuguese).

Caetano Veloso (legendary tropicália balladeer) dedicated several pages of his memoir to this track, as it was hugely influential to the up and coming tropicálistas for how it combined MPB (Brazilian pop) with American rock and soul. You can hear Jorge evolving past his initial “Mas Que Nada” period in this album, and inspiring decades of Brazilian rock to come.

Self-titled #1 – Gal Costa (1969) | Due to the charming and baffling habit in Brazilian music of issuing multiple self-titled albums, often in one year, I have to call this album “Gal Costa’s first 1969 self-titled album.” To me, this is the archetypal “Tropicália” album—trippy arrangements by Rogerio Duprat, psychedelic jams, and driving Brazilian rhythms.

It’s also the album that permanently hooked me on Brazilian music and inspired me to start Alma Tropicália. The standout track for me is “Sebastiana,” an old forró standard popularized by Jackson do Pandeiro, reworked here as a psych-samba freakout. Gal’s voice never sounded sweeter to me than on this track.

Expresso 2222 – Gilberto Gil (1971) | This is the album that marked Gilberto Gil’s return to Brazil after his forced exile in London at the hands of Brazil’s military dictatorship. This album has everything: rock, bossa nova, baião, frevo, and more.

It really showcases Gil’s incredible musicianship. In my opinion it’s the most consistent album Gil made and just rocks from start to finish. It’s hard to beat the raucous blues jam on “Back in Bahia.”

Mudei de Idéia – Antonio Carlos and Jocafi (1971) | This album is lesser-known in the States, and was introduced to me by Greg Caz, New York’s premiere Brazilian music DJ and one of the world’s leading experts in Brazilian records. Our singer Elin and I really try to go deep in our knowledge of Brazilian music and culture, and we’ve relied heavily on crate-diggers like Greg to open our minds to Brazil’s hidden gems.

This is the debut album from Antonio Carlos and Jocafi, a duo from Bahia who were popular in Brazil in the ’70s. “Vocé Abusou” was the big pop hit on this album, but the rest of the album is a funky psychedelic masterpiece. I’m particularly obsessed with the groove on “Kabaluerê.”

Preço De Cada Um – Cravo e Canela (1977) | This is another album Greg Caz put on our radar. This album was highly coveted by collectors for years and extremely rare before Mr. Bongo put out a reissue in 2011. This is a samba-pop band from Rio that put out one record on a tiny label, which happened to include some of the best Brazilian musicians in the world, including guitarist/accordionist Sivuca and drummer Teo Lima (who played with Djavan and Ivan Lins, among many others).

This album has some of the nastiest samba grooves you’ll ever hear, particularly in the title track “Preço De Cada Um.” Our singer Elin sometimes does a couple of songs from this album in her Brazilian jazz sets.

You can find out more about Alma Tropicália from their website, including downloads of both “Last Road Out” and “What Makes You.” Plus, check out the upcoming show on February 22.

AlmaTropicalia

Special thanks to Mr. Takis for compiling this list.

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  • Chris

    Thanks for this article. I’m seeing it a day after the show and was busy last night anyway, but I’m always interested to learn about new bands, and I have never heard of a couple of the bands you cite as influences for Alma Tropicalia. I usually enjoy Brazilian music when I listen to it, so thanks for introducing a couple of bands whose work I can explore.

    • Dulani

      Thank you, Chris. The era that influenced Alma Tropicalia is seminal to world music, as a form of social protest and free speech. Happy listening.

  • Matthew Mayakovsky

    Nice article. But I wish Alma Tropicalia would stop using the above photo– given that most of the people in it are no longer with the band. Don’t care to have my likeness used to promote Mr. Takis or Elin, who are best known to fellow musicians and promoters across DC for their terrible attitude and socially incompetent manner of dealing with people. And I won’t even comment on the smooth jazz-esque direction they’ve taken with their music. I’m surprised the original writers of most of the songs they play haven’t sent them a cease and desist order. — Matt, founding guitarist of the band

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