June 5 2014
Let's be clear, I knew I'd be writing about Bixiga 70 since at least 2011. The only surprise for me is that I'd assumed they be laying an afrobeat masterpiece on the world a little bit sooner than they did when they did what they did and finally dropped they're second full-length Ocupai, in early May. They 10-piece afrobeat collective from Sao Paolo is not just another funk orchestra (not that that would be a bad thing neccessarily), they're a funk dictatorship; a focused force packing the punch of a collective vision to explore boundaries and blur genres as if it was birthright.
Bixiga (be-sheega) 70's name is the tell, letting you know from whence their river flows and is a tribute to the bands the late Fela Kuti fronted as well as the name of their barrio in Sao Paolo. But the thing about both Africa 70 and later Egypt 80, is that those weren't just bands, they were vehicles and Fela's still active drummer Tony Allen, was the motor. While Bixiga 70 boasts no charismatic singing sax player, they do have drummer Mauricio Fleury who studied his craft under Tony Allen and like Allen, has a knack for sounding like two drummers playing at once.
Polyrhythms come easy for this band, and not having a singer is no drawback. They're brutal beats, in constant communion with the horn section, means the dance does the talking. Furthermore, the ten songs on Ocupai weave many African textures into the fabric of Brazilian influences like Os Tincoas, Joao Donato and Baden Powell. The story of they're inspiration isn't simply a reconnection of Brazil and Africa, the music is about their many other influnces as well; from jazz to dub to rap and reggae.
Beyond the influences, the band is influential, and I'd put them in the conversation of "what's the best new Brazilian music these days?" Right up there with cats like Criolo, Iconili, Emcida, Karol Conka and Curumin. Add Bixiga 70 to that list and you could definitely get better idea of what's hot with heads in Brazil. Highly recommended!