DJ Cliffy

DJ Cliffy

Black Rio: Brazil Soul Power 1971-1980


“Black Power,” “Soul Power,” “Power to the People,” were all slogans that, along with funk, the afro, and dashiki, invigorated African-Americans in the late ’60s/early ’70s. But the dress, the attitude, politics, and music were contagious as units of Yellow, Brown, and Red Panthers sprouted up, as Fela took them back to Nigeria and invented Afro Pop, and Brazil’s military dictatorship set about to systematically crush the will of its people.

Under its repressive reign, Brazil’s black population adopted the afro and funk of its North American cousins — often at great personal risk. This compilation stands as testament to the invigorating music that these people were making while samba still dominated the world’s image of Brazil. Some songs, like Orlandivo’s “Onde Anda O Meu Amor” and the Fela-inflected “Iai·” by Grupo Arembepe, are smooth mixtures between the two genres. However, the most fun to be had on this disc is the funk. Gang Do Tagarela opens Black Rio with their cover of the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” (or Chic’s “Good Times,” depending on how you want to look at it). Trio Mocoto has a stirring funk chant with “NagÙ.” Unio Black’s “Black Rio” is reminiscent of the Nuyorican funk of the early ’70s, with Joe Bataan, Willie Colon, or early Irakere. Gerson King Combo’s “Uma Chance” is grimy Billy Preston soul. With “Cinco Anos” by Miguel de Deus, think “Jungle Boogie” and with Eklipse Soul’s “Psicose,” think LaBelle on acid.

Black Rio is a raw, gritty sweatfest which far outshines most of the tepid Brazilian jazz and milquetoast MPB that have droned in our ears for decades now. DJ Cliffy should be commended for his deft compilation of some funky-ass music I wish I could’ve heard years ago. But I do thank Strut for giving me the opportunity to hear it at all. I hope there’s more coming our way.

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