New Audio: The Afrobeat-Inspired Deep and Funky Grooves of Bixiga 70

Bixiga, is a Central São Paulo neighborhood, known as a cultural melting pot of its Italian. African and Northeastern Brazilian population, and is arguably one of the city’s best areas to eat and catch some of the South American country’s up-and-coming musicians.  The neighborhood is also known as the home of the recording studio Traquitana, located at 70 Rua 13 de Maio, a street in the Bixiga neighborhood packed with music venues and restaurants, and the spiritual and musical birthplace of the São Paulo-based dectet, Bixiga 70, an act whose name is partially influenced by Fela Kuti and his backing band, Africa ’70.

Considering that the dectet’s birthplace is one of São Paulo’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods, each member of the band had long been involved in the city’s avant garde pop, jazz, club and Brazilian music scenes, and as a result, the band’s sound meshes elements of Afrobeat, Guinean malinké, Brazilian candomblé, samba and cumbia — and in a way that bridges the sounds of the Afro-Brazilian Diaspora with the sounds of Africa.  In fact, they are largely considered one of the pioneering groups of Brazil’s growing Afro-inspired music scene, and the Brazilian dectet have played shows with the legendary Tony Allen, Seun Kuti and Egypt ’80, Antibalas and others.

The Brazilian collective’s sophomore effort, Ocupai was released to national and international attention, and as a result, the band went on a lengthy international tour with stops across the US, Europe, Morocco and their native Brazil, and those experiences have reportedly informed their forthcoming third (and aptly-titled) full-length effort, III, which is slated for a Stateside release on October 2.

III’s first single “100% 13” is comprised of an explosive horn section, a deep and incredibly funky groove, propulsive percussion, swirling and buzzing organ chords and angular guitar chords played through a fuzzy bit of reverb in a composition that paradoxically manages to be tight yet loose enough for an expansive and playful improvisation. Much like the Afrobeat that has largely inspired the collective, there’s a sense that once a groove starts that they can continue going wherever it goes, until their muse tells them when to stop — and interestingly, as funky as it is, it manages to come from a deeply politically informed place. Their sound seems to evoke not just the sounds of the streets of São Paulo, but of New York, Lagos, Nairobi and Guinea Conakry.

Bixiga 70’s “III” is a breathtaking rhythmic storm where inspired solos, harmony and dynamics, beats and improvisation all mesh together in vital and unpredictable ways. Spanning between a joyous danceability, a sharp sense of humor and committed political reflections, the life-blood of this ten-piece unit is instrumental music, but it is an instrumental music that speaks profoundly.

Self-produced by the band in their own studio in Sao Paulo (and mixed by Victor Rice) all the compositions on “III” are written and arranged by the entire Bixiga 70 collective. There are no liner note details: the process of creation is decentralized and acknowledges the importance of each musician in the room. The album was recorded live in the studio to further assure the depth of this collaborative spirit and to accentuate the intensity of the band’s sonic experiments.

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