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Guest Playlist: Balako


Brazilian duo Balako take their name from 'balacobalaco', a colloquialism used during the 80s which translates as 'a good type of mess'.

Which sets us up nicely to say something along the lines of '...this term perfectly encapsulates the duo's sound, meshing together a variety of styles, including disco, funk and the Brazilian traditions of samba and carimbó'.

Though the music of Diogo Strausz and Rodrigo Peirao sounds heavy on the sampling, they actually invited musicians into their studio to record instrumental parts, recreating live the nostalgic warmth which characterises the contemporary wave of house and disco edits. 

Speaking about their city, Rio de Janeiro, the duo say “we are not in the glory days of clubbing and I think that is directly linked to the economic crisis we are facing." This honest confrontation with the realities of life in Brazil today frames their creative output, built on both a love and concern for their city and country.

With that in mind, Balako have put together an all-Brazilian playlist for us, spotlighting the rich wellspring of music the south American nation has gifted the rest of the world.

Martinho da Villa - ‘Renascer das Cinzas’ (1974)

In Portuguese, renascer das cinzas means raise/rise from the ashes, which gives its name to this samba from Martinho da Villa, composed after Villa Isabel's ‘samba school’ was relegated from the first division of Rio de Janeiro’s carnival parade. The track is part of one of Martinho Villa’s most classic albums, Canta Canta, Minha Gente which also has some of Martinho’s classic and great sambas such as ‘Distrimia’. The album has some amazing Afro rhythm sections mixed with old school partido alto sambas and great candomblé references on the arrangements.

Elis Regina - 'Deus É Quem Sabe' (1980)

This is a great b-side from Elis Regina, released just one year prior to her death. At the time she was struggling with addictions & health problems. Nevertheless, during this period she was still recording and on top of her game. This beautiful song was given to her by Guilherme Arantes, a great songwriter from Brazil, which during this time was facing similar troubles to hers. Elis brilliantly interprets the lyrics and her ex husband Cesar Camargo Mariano gives the track a polished jazz finish, which makes this one of my favourite tracks ever recorded of her career.

Caetano Veloso - 'Gema' (1981)

'Gema' is a track featured on Caetano Veloso’s not very critically acclaimed album, Outras Palavras, which in my opinion is one of my favourites from his collection. I really like this track, its flow, melody and percussion. This song talks about a vision Maria Bethânia (Caetano’s sister and Brazilian diva) once had. In the midst of the emotions she called Caetano and described the vision to him. Caetano heard the story and some minutes later called Bethânia with this whole track composed. This song was recorded by both of them and both interpretations are very nice.

Cassiano - 'Coleção' (1976)

Coleção is classic soul jam from one of the biggest soul stars of Brazil’s history - Cassiano. The singer is from the same generation of great composers such as Tim Maia & Hyldon. This track is part of his most known record, Cuban Soul. Coleção was a major hit in Brazil and was covered by many other Brazilian artists. Nevertheless the original version for me is one of the best love soul songs from our history. Very Marvin Gaye-ish...

Guilherme Arantes - 'Fio da Navalha' (1984)

'Fio da Navalha' is HUGE groove from Guilherme Arantes. Guilherme is one of the biggest composers from Brazil, he scored so many hits for himself and other big names. He has vast importance for the story of our music, born in São Paulo, and one of the main names behind the new wave scene in the country. This song has pretty fresh lyrics for topics such as governmental corruption in our country.

Egberto Gismonti - 'Tributo a Wes Montgomery' (1969)

'Tributo a Wes Montgomery' - the title of the debut album from legendary Brazilian composer, guitarist and pianist Egberto Gismonti. The album is composed of tracks from genres such as bossa nova, Latin jazz and fusion. This track is a tribute from Egberto to Wes Montgomery who died a year prior to the release. The percussion and drums of the album we’re performed by Wilson das Neves with killer arrangements from Gismonti.

zé roberto - lotus 72d (1973)

Classic Brazilian funk! Early samba-rock, this track is funny because the whole lyrics talk about Brazilian F1 driver Emerson Fittipaldi, who used to be the category champion on the time. It's a boogie dedicated to Formula 1, and not the first dedicated to Emerson - he also had a documentary made which was scored by Azymuth.

Gal Costa - 'Aquele Frevo Axé' (1998)

I love this track, it’s the first collaboration of Caetano Veloso and my guitar teacher Cezar Mendes. This is the first of many collaborations between both. Here is the most known version of the song performed by Gal Costa, one of the biggest divas of our country, from her album which was named after the song.

Airto Moreira - 'Flora On My Mind' (1975)

'Flora On My Mind' was a song Airto Moreira made for his wife Flora Purim, when she was doing time in jail due to cocaine possession. The track is part of Airto’s album Identity produced by Herbie Hancock. Also this record has some amazing musicians playing in the session such as Robertinho da Silva (drums), John Heard (bass), Egberto Gismonti (guitar) and Wayne Shorter (sax).

Balako's new EP Hora de Balako is out now on Greco-Roman now.

Stream and pick up your copy here.