ON A SMALL LOCAL REVOLUTION & THE ZEITGEIST
have been small music revolutions everywhere although not many were aware
of them. This tale is about one of these moments in Brazil where we've
seen great inventive music and artists slowly get forgotten and then overlooked
from our general pop history. So flashback 25 years ago and enter São
Paulo, Brazil's greyest megalopolis, always in constant change and growth.
São Paulo is best known as the largest South American city with
a massive population of approximately 20 million people from all parts
of the country. It is made up with second generations of immigrants from
Italy, Spain, Lebanon, Japan (the largest Japanese community outside Japan),
Portugal, France, Africa, Israel and so on. Amongst its skyscrapers, large
avenues and terrible traffic jams, a bunch of like minded music enthusiasts
in their 20's & 30's from middle class backgrounds got together to
start their own thing in their own terms.
This compilation introduces you to some of our favourite moments of the
São Paulo's underground post-punk scene from the 80's. It presents
some of the city's greatest acts of the time such as As Mercenárias,
Patife Band, Akira S e As Garotas Que Erraram Gang 90 e As Absurdettes,
Chance, Fellini, Smack to name a few of the artists featured here. It
consists of a period of time that spans from its beginning in 1980 to
NO WAVE, NÃO SÃO PAULO!
post punk scene represents more or less Brazil's musical answer to other
well-known similar moments in pop history. That is to say, the No Wave
downtown scene from New York of bands such as Arto Lindsay's DNA, The
Contortions, ESG and England's Post Punk scene of groups like Gang of
Four, The Pop Group and A Certain Ratio, which were definitely great influences
on most of the artists featured in this compilation. Therefore you might
read our story as part of the same Zeitgeist, however with a slightly
ironic left-wing nihilistic tropical take, if I may put it this way, which
back then in the 80's was a common feature to most of São Paulos
artists, their discourses and their music. Other similarities include
a compilation entitled Não São Paulo made 7 years later
after the legendary Brian Enos No New York. This was
São Paulos first attempt to map some of the citys great
underground actions at the time.
Hell has got 1000 entrances sang scenester Pedreira Antunes
from Akira S e As Garotas Que Erraram on the amazing bass-driven punk
funk Sobre As Pernas. And hell was all over our concrete jungle, down
to Rua Augusta through Xavier de Toledo up to Barão de Itapetininga's
Mappin department store. Through São Paulo's late night bars, pizzerias
and restaurants to its sexy street prostitutes and transvestites. Hell
flowed through its sweaty mixed saunas to its brothels, drive-ins, parks
and cheap motels. The inferno was everywhere. Likewise, in another part
of town, one of São Paulo's most outstanding all-girls outfit ever,
As Mercenárias shouted Panic at full volume as Rosália Munhoz
and Sandra Coutinho harmonised beautifully in small clubs. The city kept
collapsing through their lines.
Cadão Volpato sang that 'everything was a mere question of money'
on Rock Europeu, one of Fellini's catchiest tunes. His caustic and defensive
comments on the wild necessity to consume international music was full
of bittersweet irony and became a micro hit around São Paulos
underground of the mid 80s. At that time Brazil was living through
a restricted period in which it wasnt that easy to get imports into
the country. Therefore, not every youngster would have access to new records
produced outside Brazil. Some would say, and I personally share this opinion,
that such difficulties contributed to truly liberate some of our acts
to find their own identity. In other words, it was all about the city,
its internal politics and a great deal of aesthetics. Needless to say
that over there we were all misfits under the sun, therefore also tourists
at home! Here are some facts.
LOST IN THE JUNGLE! JULIO BARROSO & GANG 90.
night I dreamed I was Jack Keroac
story of São Paulos underground dates back from the early
80s and owes a lot to pop militant, poet, lead singer, DJ and full-time
dreamer Julio Barroso and his Gang 90 & As Absurdettes.
was a larger than life character, a die-hard fan of black music who was
also a living bible of Brazilian popular music and a great
admirer of acts such as Kid Creolle & The Coconuts, B52's and Pere
Ubu. After living for some time in New York, by the late 70's where he
worked as a barman, Julio used to check out the No Wave scene via Arto
Lindsay. Back to São Paulo in the early 80's with a bag full of
brand new records for the opening of Paulicéia Desvairada, São
Paulo's first new wave club run by pop journalist Nelson Mota and entrepreneur
Ricardo Amaral, he formed Gang 90.
band made its debut at the club and some time later in 1981, they recorded
Perdidos Na Selva (Lost in The Jungle), a 7 inch single for Nelson Mota's
label Hot. Perdidos Na Selva was written in collaboration with pop maverick
Guilherme Arantes and amazingly it became a hit around Brazil due to Gang
90s participation at MPB Shell Festival and their unexpected nomination
to be amongst the finalists of the contest. Gang 90 e As Absurdettes were
made up of Julio Barroso on vocals, his loyal local divas May East, Alice
Pink Pank, Lolita Renaux and Luiza Maria on backing vocals, including
young musicians such as Gigante Brasil on drums, Lee Marcutti (formerly
of Tutti Frutti) on bass, Wander Taffo on guitars and Guilherme Arantes
on keyboards. Their B-side brought a funny version of 'Christine' of British
outfit Siouxsie and The Banshees named Liliki Lamê. Gang 90 had
dozens of different line-ups and would bring together a number of local
musicians and pre-scenesters during their period of activity. Moreover
the band was an extremely fashion-conscious outfit and served as a platform
for Julio's advocacy of the concept of Antropophagy (our idea of cultural
cannibalism as a positive force for transformation in the arts, in other
words, our way of 'eating' from other cultures to produce new work). His
moves were felt strongly in the scene and like the Tropicalists in the
late 60s, Gang 90 were ready to devour new information wherever
it came from.
there was something about São Paulo's acts that made their music
sound unexpected to the rest of the country. Sonically speaking, São
Paulo's groups used to be much more urban, darker and spookier than their
laid back peers from Rio de Janeiro -Cariocas. On the other hand, the
Cariocas were already doing the 'beach new wave' sound of Rio, which back
in the early 80s, dominated the whole country. Every Brazilian teenager
would know by heart every single tune from Rio's outfits such as Blitz,
Kid Abelha e Os Abóboras Selvagens, Barão Vermelho, Sempre
Livre, Neuzinha Brizola amongst many others. Not to mention that Rio's
bands were all signed to major record labels and had their first albums
released with a good distribution around the country. São Paulos
acts formed the independent side of this industry.
Gang 90 e as Absurdettes ended up getting signed to a major record label
too. By 1983, they had a delicious tropical new wave hit around Brazil
named Louco Amor (Crazy love), thanks to its insertion on the opening
of an 8 o'clock soap opera which shared the same title of the Gang's track.
This meant being played every day for about one year to millions &
millions of Brazilians through TV Globo, the epitome of the country's
mainstream. But the truth was that Julio wanted both sides of the cake.
He wanted his cult status intact at the same time he wanted Gang 90 to
achieve his ultra popular aspirations. In 1983, Gang 90 & As Absurdettes
released their first LP Essa Tal de Gang 90 to great critical success
but they didn't sell a lot like their counterpart new wave outfit Blitz
from Rio. Sadly, in 1984 Julio was found dead in front of his building.
He fell down from the 8th floor from his apartment flat in Santa Cecilia
in the centre of São Paulo. From then on, his influence would echo
around São Paulos second and third waves of post-punkers.
THREE DIFFERENT PLACES
the early 80's, the underground of São Paulo had already distinct
sound manifestations. It worked pretty much through three different moments.
On one side, we had an arty avant-garde new MPB (Brazilian Popular Music)
moment named Vanguarda Paulista. This scene was comprised of artists such
as Arrigo Barnabé, the late 'Nêgo Dito' Itamar Assunção,
Rumo, Língua de Trapo, Premeditando o Breque, Tetê Espíndola
amongst its leading exponents. This group of people was pretty much interested
in renewing the old MPB by injecting tons of atonal structures, spoken
word narratives, theatrical vocals and mashing up old school samba, marginal
poetry, folk music and beautiful complex orchestrations. Arrigo Barnabé
and his seminal atonal opera Clara Crocodilo as well as the amazing Beleleu
Leleu eu by Itamar Assumpção were certainly the greatest
examples of this scene.
Running parallel, there was a bunch of great nervous and shouty suburban
punk rock mayhem going on. By the late 70's and early 80's, inflation
in the country was running over 100% and Brazil had about 5 million people
unemployed. In the middle of this scenario acts such as Cólera,
Lixomania, Garotos Podres, Inocentes, Olho Seco, Condutores de Cadáver
to name only a few, were writing their own story around the city. These
bands were extremely dissatisfied with the paths Brazilian music was taking
and despised to death our 'Caetanos', 'Gilberto Gils' and the rest of
the well-behaved MPB of the 80's.
Lastly, we had the beginning of the São Paulo underground post-punk
scene with its very first acts such as Gang 90 & As Absurdettes, followed
by two great obscure electronic outfits named Agentss and Azul 29 and
finally the left-wing politics of Os Voluntários Da Pátria.
After them, the post punk moment was open and we would see countless bands
spring up around town. The two next waves of groups included acts such
as As Mercenárias, Titãs, Zero, Muzak, RPM, Ultraje a Rigor,
Akira S e As Garotas Que Erraram, Fellini, IRA! Smack, Patife Band, Nau,
Gueto, amongst the groups who helped to solidify the São Paulo
post punk scene as a proper moment. Their music was influenced by their
counterparts in Europe and US and brought a healthy mix of politics and
aesthetics together. Likewise, some of these bands looked back to Brazil's
past radical moments mainly through the eyes of other marginalised experimentalists
such as Arnaldo Baptista, Tom Zé and Walter Franco. The post punk
acts of São Paulo were somewhere in between the angry punk scene
and the avant pop and political discourse of the art departments
from USP (University of São Paulo). It is also worth noticing that
there was quite a mixture of middle class art students with working class
boys and girls playing in different bands.
THE RECORDING OF A TIME & BARATOS AFINS
period marks the beginning of the city's mythical iconoclastic post punk
underground era and it represents Brazil's first actions towards an alternative
local system of shows that culminated in one of the first independent
record labels, the now legendary Baratos Afins Discos. Run by pharmacist
and music enthusiast Luis Carlos Calanca, Baratos Afins worked out of
a small record shop located at the Grandes Galerias Shopping Centre in
Downtown São Paulo at Rua 24 de Maio. The label still exists and
operates from the same place. Luis Carlos helped to reveal a great deal
of the new sound of São Paulo at the time.
1983, Baratos Afins had its first release out. Strangely enough, it was
a radical solo experimental work by the ex Os Mutantes' Arnaldo Baptista
named Singing Alone. The album was released one year after Arnaldo's accident
in 1982 when he had thrown himself out of a window from a mental hospital
and had the left side of his brain paralysed. Arnaldo broke seven ribs,
had a cerebral oedema and remained in coma for 2 months. His wife Suzana
Braga looked for Luis Carlos to release Arnaldo's album that none of the
other major labels wanted. Luis had produced his Shine Alone concert a
few months earlier and immediately accepted the proposal. He put the record
out and that was the beginning of Baratos Afins amazing output. From then
on the label would become the crème de la crème of São
Paulo's underground music in the 80's as well as one of the greatest pieces
for promotion and development of the scene's artists. Most of the acts
in this compilation had their albums released on Baratos Afins. Their
roster includes As Mercenárias, Fellini, Akira S e as Garotas Que
Erraram, Chance, Muzak, Nau and Smack. The other bands featured here either
had their albums on other small labels from São Paulo such as Harry
on Wop Bop and Cabine C on RPM Discos or had their music released on majors
which is the case of Patife Band and Gueto that signed to WEA, and GANG
90 & AS ABURDETTES on BMG.
BANDS, VENUES, PRESS and THE IMAGINARY!
aspect of São Paulo's post punk underground was its communal characteristics.
Most of the bands here shared at least one member in common on their line
up. There was an incredible rotation of instrumentalists and bands were
formed all the time. Sandra Coutinho from As Mercenárias would
play bass and sing for Smack. Thomas Pappon played drums on Smack but
would also play guitar, bass and programme the drum machine for Fellini.
Anna Ruth would play bass for Akira S e As Garotas que Erraram and later
on would join Cabine C. Edson X, who was the drummer for Gueto, would
also play on Akira S and so on. Not to mention guitarist Edgard Scandurra
from Smack who played with practically all acts from the circuit at some
point before he finally set as a fixed member of IRA!.
The bands were also up to play on every single stage in town. Our venues
were most of the time delicious crap demi-monde old warehouses with poor
sound systems and small stages by the dance floors. These venues were
peopled with like-minded youngsters and local underground celebrities.
Napalm, Madame Satã, Hong Kong, Carbono 14, Ácido Plástico,
Rose Bom Bom, Retrô, Centro Cultural SP, Val Improviso to name a
few places, were all crucial to mythologise São Paulo's post punk
actions to the rest of Brazil. They represented São Paulo's infamous
clubs, quasi-brothels, boites, cabarets and art centres that everybody
wanted to visit. Moreover, most of these spaces dedicated their programme
to the local bands and throughout the 80's every single band of this compilation
have played one of these venues at least once.
In addition, there was the new pop journalism being practised by the Folha
De São Paulo 's cultural pages. By the mid 80's, The Folha De São
Paulo had become the most powerful newspaper of the country and used to
cover the scenes moves. Not to mention Bizz, São Paulo-based
music-mag with a big distribution around Brazil, which for better or for
worse, had a number of members of the underground bands working as music
editors or collaborators. Later on, by the mid 80's, we would see Alex
Antunes aka Pedreira Antunes of Akira S, Thomas Pappon of Fellini and
José Augusto Lemos of Chance to name a few names, become music
writers too. In other words, there was an image of São Paulo's
underground music scene being carefully produced to the rest of Brazil.
No matter if these bands werent really famous around the country.
São Paulo was the ultimate violent monstrous third-world urban
hell surrounded by skyscrapers, bridges, favelas, traffic jams. It was
a depressive rainy tropical blade runner kind of city that slowly took
over the country's imagination with bands that were in search of an original
'Panic! You don't know who your enemy is, you're completely lost
As Mercenárias were the greatest all-female São Paulo's
outfit from the 80's. They were made up of Rosália Munhoz on vocals,
Sandra Coutinho on bass and vocals, Ana on guitars and Lou on Drums. They
were also one of the tightest live bands I've ever seen. They released
two extraordinarily good albums Cadê As Armas? (Where are the Guns?)
on Baratos Afins and Trashland on major Odeon. Their amazing micro songs
worked pretty much as mini-manifests of individual and collective resistances.
For this compilation we chose Inimigo (Enemy), and Pânico (Panic),
two pieces of furious punk/new wave, fantastically delivered by Rosália
on lead vocals and Sandra and Ana on backing vocals. AKIRA S E AS GAROTAS
The Inferno has got a thousand entries, some are tourist points
Akira S E As Garotas Que Erraram were a conceptual outfit made up of Brazilian/Japanese
maverick Akira S on bass and programming, writer and activist Pedreira
Antunes (formerly Número 2) on vocals and lyrics, Ana Ruth on bass,
Corina on keyboards and Edson X on drums. Their music had a punk funk
disco feel with great half spoken, half sung vocals. The tracks we chose
are the amazing 'Sobre as Pernas', a groovy spoken-word piece on life
as hell in the city and their punk funk meets free jazz interlude Swing
Basses Series I (Eu Dirijo O Carro Bomba).
'You cannot imagine what you didnt know...
Fellini was one the most notorious São Paulo underground acts from
the mid-80's. They recorded some of the greatest lo-fi albums of the period.
Fellini was made up of journalist Cadão Volpato on vocals and multi-instrumentalist
and journalist Thomas Pappon (also from Smack and formerly of Voluntários
da Pátria) plus Ricardo Salvagni and Jayr Marcos. They fused European
post punk influences with electro bossa, drum machine patterns and synths.
We chose their ironic comment on European music taken from their first
album O Adeus De Fellini from 1985 and the amazing lo-fi baião
Zum Zum Zum Zazoeira taken from their third album Três Lugares Diferentes
from 1987. Fellini released 5 albums, 3 on Baratos Afins, and 1 on Wop
Bop and one on Rio de Janeiro's independent label Midsummer Madness Records.
Morro, morro cedo
Ill die early
Chance was one of the spookiest outfits from São Paulo's underground
post punk scene. Unfortunately Chance didn't record an LP but they did
produce one of the most beautiful and emblematic dark sambas of the time.
We proudly included Samba do Morro, their dubious atmospheric Casio-driven
electro samba, sung wonderfully by velvet voiced Marcinha here. We also
chose O Striptease de Madame X which is a slow spoken word piece surrounded
by stylish Debussy-like piano phrases. Both tracks were taken from the
seminal compilation Não São Paulo released on Baratos Afins
in 1985. Chance was made up of pop journalist and Bizz Magazine editor
José Augusto Lemos aka Scot on strings, computer, voice and percussion,
Nena on piano and keyboards and Marcinha on vocals. They performed only
a few times. Either they were all too drunk to make it or their equipment
would always crash. I happened to see two of their performances and fell
in love with their vocalist.
'Get away from here, get away from me
Smack shared members from several other outfits. They were made up of
Sandra Coutinho from As Mercenárias on bass and backing vocals,
Thomas Pappon from Fellini on drums, Edgard Scandurra from IRA! on guitar
and vocals and Sergio Pamplona aka Pamps on lead vocals and guitar. Smack
had a dense melancholic dirty guitar-driven sound. Their music was punctuated
by amazing occasional dissonances and great bass lines and backing vocals.
They released two albums Smack Ao Vivo No Mosh and Noite e Dia both on
Baratos Afins. Fora Daqui and Mediocridade Afinal are two of their best
angular dirty rocks.
'You do everything for your baby
Patife Band was this incredible four-piece outfit led by composer Paulo
Barnabé (formerly of Sabor de Veneno). Held as one of the first
Brazilian dodecaphonic punk funk outfits, Patife Band's music is highly
rhythmic, full of atonal phrases, aggressive punk vocals and occasional
cheese chants and melodies. Poema Em Linha Reta was made in collaboration
with Paulo's brother Arrigo Barnabé, who back in the early 80'
was another central composer for the Vanguarda Paulista moment. We also
chose Teu Bem, a sexy, ironic and nihilistic tale of love with a great
guitar riff. Both tracks were taken from their second album Corredor Polonês.
''Psychedelic butterfly ... psychedelic butterfly'
Gueto was a four-piece outfit from the north zone of São Paulo.
Their music incorporated hip hop, Brazilian traditional rhythms such as
baião and samba with post punk elements. They were made up of Júlio
Cesar on vocals, Edson X (formerly of Akira S e As Garotas Que Erraram)
on drums, Marcio on guitar and Marcola on bass. Their first album Estação
Primeira was recorded in 1987 on WEA to great local success. We chose
their punk funk hit Borboleta Psicodélica.
'You have gone wrong
Harry was born in 1985 in Santos, Latin America's largest seaport city,
10 miles away from Cubatão, one of the most polluted regions on
earth. They had a number of different line ups along its trajectory and
initially had Hansen on guitars and vocals, Cesar Di Giacomo on drums
and the late Renato Grillo on bass. In 1986 Denise Tesluki joined the
band and Harry releases their first experimental EP Harry on Wop Bop produced
by Roberto Verta who later would become Harrys member. With Denise's
departure and the arrival of Verta as a member, the band intensified the
electro elements into their sound by bringing a Poly 800 along drum machines,
sequencers and samplers to their music. By 1987 Harry turns itself into
an electronic act and in 1998 they released a locally acclaimed album
all sung in English named Fairy Tales with plenty of synthpop tunes and
minimalist influences. Here Harry is represented by Hasen's Kraftwerk-driven
tune You Have Gone Wrong.
Muzak was made up of Osmar on bass and vocals, Nivaldo on guitar and Vitor
on drums. They released an EP on EMI in 1986 and had micro hit called
Onde Estou? We chose their nervous post punk anthem Ilha Urbana taken
from Não São Paulo. Ilha Urbana is one of their
greatest tracks with hysterical minimalist guitars and dark vocals.
'Our love is here, far and near from us
Cabine was a dark wave outfit led by poet Ciro Pessoa (formerly of Titãs)
with Marinella Setti on drums and vocals, Anna Ruth on bass and backing
vocals and Wania Forghiere on keyboards and backing vocals. Here we chose
Tão Perto, a tale of love and loss with atmospheric guitars by
Fernando Deluki (formerly of RPM) taken from their LP Fósforos
' 'I know how the stars are treating you'
Nau was a four piece comprised of Vange Leonel on vocals, Zique on guitars,
Beto Birger on bass and Mauro Sanches on drums, formed in the mid 80's.
They recorded a rock & roll driven LP for major CBS in 1986 and disbanded
in 1989 when Vange Leonel went solo. Madame Oráculo was taken from
Baratos Afins' compilation Não São Paulo II.
***** ***** ***** ******
Most of the bands in this compilation are not in activity anymore. However,
many of their members are still involved with great musical projects.
We are proud that 20 years later Soul Jazz Records happened to hear a
special programme we made for our Slum Dunk radio show on Resonance Fm
about the underground post punk scene of São Paulo in the 80's
and put together this compilation.
This is only a small part of countless similar overlooked moments Brazil's
pop history has gone through. Other acts from cities like Rio de Janeiro,
Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Curitiba definitely shared similar periods
and produced a great deal of very unexpected music too.
We hope you enjoy this bit of the story
Verner, London - Dec 2004.
by Bruno Verner & Eliete Mejorado (Tetine/Slum Dunk Radio Crew)