In our North American musical classification systems, nearly all types of Brazilian music, it seems to me, are too often considered a part of the World Music genre. Not just Brazilian or “Latin” music styles — even North American funk and soul often fall under the same over-generalized World or Groove categories.
Here in Toronto, with our dozens upon dozens of music scenes for nearly any sub-genre I can name, I find it can be a challenge to introduce less Brazilian or tropical music oriented friends to connect with a particular style. Many of those who do enjoy Brazilian music do so no matter what details I want to tell them about it: the thrilling, booming samba or maracatu drums, the full-on spectacle of samba or capoeira performances, or the open-hearted, at times seductive joy of a good forró dance.
Rio de Janeiro, as one might expect, is a completely different story. In Rio’s famous Lapa nightlife district, the samba rhythm and manifestation alone takes on various forms: stage bands of various sizes, casual roda de samba format (often around a table) and both street-side and stage-bound samba bateria (drum corps) performances. These are in addition to the other Northeastern and Afro-Brazilian manifestations happening both as venue-based shows and street performance, from forró and maracatu to Jongo da Serra. And all of this bubbling with activity within blocks of one another. (The “powder keg of culture“!)
But if one form of samba and MPB can bridge Toronto and Rio, it may just be the sound that Pedro Quental calls “Carioca Soul” — a mixture of MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) and soul music that seems like a natural product of the Lapa scene.
Quental is one of the vocalists from the Rio samba troupe Monobloco, though he was already an established (albeit often behind-the-scenes) singer, composer and voice-over professional when he joined the popular percussion group in 2008.
His stage presence is incredible, regardless of how long he previously spent working with music in an off-stage capacity. And Canadian audiences have had a chance to get to know Quental, through a true Toronto-Rio connection: the singer has performed here for the past few summers, each time brought by Toront0-based samba artist Maninho Costa, who frequently plays with Monobloco when visiting Rio (also Costa’s hometown).
Starting in 2010, Costa has invited Quental for a run of summer shows in which visiting vocalist Quental is backed by a Toronto-based Brazilian band, with Costa on percussion, as well in a heavier samba bateria format with Costa’s Batucada Carioca.
In previous years, Quental showed his performance chops on MPB and samba classics, including funk and samba-rock tunes from the greats like Jorge Ben, Chico Buarque and Gonzaguinha. Last year, the band played Harbourfront’s Expressions of Brazil and Quental sang with Batucada Carioca at Montreal’s summer Carnaval.
Now, with his visit following a newly launched Monobloco album, Quental and the Canadian-based Brazilian band switches it up for 2013: the new repertoire includes catchy originals, and (one my favourite twists) a lively Brazilian ska treatment of a famous Buarque tune Quental played as a straight samba in previous Toronto shows.
The 2013 tour switched up the lineup to unite local Brazilian players Thiago Souza on keyboards, Wagner Petrilli on guitar, Pedro Joel on bass and Riquinho Fernandes on the batera. The performance count rose to include shows at Montreal’s summer Carnaval (this time with Quental at the front of both bands), Toronto’s Brazilfest and a headlining slot at Ottawa’s Mercury Lounge.
Check out this video from the Ottawa concert (via drummer Carlos “Riquinho” Fernandes):
The Ottawa events blog Eventful Capital’s review confirms that the show Quental and the band delivered there brought the same connection I’ve seen at the Montreal and Toronto shows:
“The crowd … included local fans of Monobloco … most of them sang along to the songs in Portuguese and it really felt as though the audience had been transported to a bar in the heart of Rio for the night.
Quental only addressed the crowd in Portuguese, which made the interaction challenging for English-speakers. However, this allowed for an immersive experience in Brazilian music and culture as each musician played their respective instrument with soul and energy.”
There’s no better way to close off Pedro Quental’s stay in Canada than with a big samba party in Toronto, and that’s exactly what he and Maninho Costa have planned for a finale.
The Sunday show starts off with Quental at the front of the soulful five-piece band before the Batucada Carioca stage show brings Quental back up to sing a range of Brazilian favourites, samba classics and high-energy party tunes, with Petrilli on guitar and Costa directing the drummers.
We can’t place our Lula Lounge in the middle of Lapa, but we can bring a touch of that gafieira swagger and samba swing to Dundas West.
And the bridge between Rio and Toronto? Hey, it’s something!
Pedro Quental Band and Batucada Carioca perform at Lula Lounge on Sunday, August 11. Doors 7 p.m., Pedro Quental Band 8 p.m. sharp, Batucada Carioca 9:30 p.m. $15 at the door. More info on the Lula Lounge website and Facebook event page.