By: Victor Henderson, @VHenderson13
When Quincy Jones asked Vulture writer David Marchese, “You like Brazilian music?” in an effort to change the conversation after spilling a piping-hot cup of tea, I felt that. Not because I’m a messy person who lives for drama, but because I really do like Brazilian music. As a matter of fact, I’m listening to Da Rocinha 3, a Brazilian funk-inspired album by Sango, right. now.
I have always been intrigued by world music, but lately, the musical stylings of that tropical country to the southeast of us has won all of my attention. The first encounter with Brazilian music that I remember was when I was 15. I spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos, and I stumbled across one of a high school dance team performing an African dance as part of their Black History Month program. The song they danced to was “Magalenha” by Sergio Mendes. If you’re wondering why the team was doing an African dance to Brazilian music, join the many people in the comments asking that same question.
Fast forward a decade and it’s clearer to me why that team may have chosen that song: Brazilian music is Black AF. The drums, the rhythm, and the emotions you feel seem to have come straight outta Africa, which makes sense. Brazil imported more Africans during slavery than North America and it wasn’t even close. The difference? Enslaved Africans were able to maintain more of their culture, rather than be forced to assimilate. The maintenance of their culture is evident in their music.
In preparation for the 2016 summer Olympics and my future trip to Brazil, I sought out music that represented the country. Sergio Mendes was the first to come up, so I hit play on Spotify and did what any person raised in a Black household with loud music going would do:
After a while, I heard “Magalenha,” the song I remembered from 10 years prior. My mind was blown because I couldn’t believe I’d heard that song before, not knowing who it was by or even what the name was, and was hearing it again, this time knowing those details. This may not make sense, but it really reminded me how small the world is.
Anyway, the song is on an album entitled Brasileiro, which is Portuguese for “Brazilian.” The cover looks like this:
If you’re like me, you probably think it looks like a painting you might have seen hanging on a wall in the Huxtable house. If you’re like me, then, also, things seem to come to you in two different pieces before coming together and, thus, making the world smaller.
Just the other day, my cousin sent me a link to the Facebook page Cores Brilhantes (Bright Colors). I saw this post and felt like I had seen that artwork before.
I did a little research on the artist and found that Heitor dos Prazeres, an Afro-Brazilian, painted the Brasileiro album cover shown above. I’ve been listening to this album regularly for two years and I’m just now realizing these two artists knew each other (kind of like how you see two of your mutuals talking to each other on social media like they know each other and you’re trying to figure out how).
My mind is even more blown. It’s blown because this album presents the musical beauty the children of the African diaspora have nurtured. My mind is blown because I now know there’s more artwork like the cover of my favorite Brazilian musical album out there. Like Pokémon, I gotta catch ‘em all. I encourage you all to check out his other paintings. They’re full of life and color, just like us.
The world is small. This album, in more ways than one (two), reminded me of that.
I’m still not sure if that makes sense.