Carlinhos Brown

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Music (música popular Brasileira, reggae, samba)
America, South
Rio de Janeiro
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May 16, 2003
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Planetary Pop Music from Brazil

Renowned for his eccentricity the Brazilian born (1962) percussionist and composer Carlinhos Brown from Salvador da Bahia has helped to revolutionize modern Brazilian pop music: in 1993 he founded the Afro-bloco group "Timbalada", and in his solo albums he mixed Afro-Brazilian percussion with US American funk, rap, heavy metal and jazz. Over the last 15 years he has composed more than 200 songs for musicians such as Sergio Mendes, Caetano Veloso, Césaria Evora and the Heavy Metal band "Sepultura".
If you happen to be born with the name Antônio Carlos Santos de Freitas why bother changing to the western world´s second most common family name? But Carlinhos Brown did just this as a homage to the godfather of soul, James Brown. Carlinhos Brown, who was born in 1962 in Candeal Pequeno - a district of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, was well-known in his home country as a composer and percussionist long before the release of his first solo album "Alfagamabetizado" (1996). Over the past 15 years he has composed innumerable pieces that have been interpreted by Césaria Evora, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Sergio Mendes. He also appeared with such different artists as Lee Ritenour and the Brazilian hard rock band "Sepultura".
At the beginning of the eighties Carlinhos Brown worked for the radio station WR composing advertising jingles with an Afro-Brasilian rhythm. Through his jingles he progressed to to become one of the creators of samba-reggae. In 1984 the singer Luiz Caldas, who at the time was with "Banda Acordes Verdes" recorded Carlinhos Brown´s first local radio hit "Visão de ciclope" and he quickly became one of the leading composers of this new kind of musia from Bahia. In less than two years he composed over 30 top hits for the "Itopoan" radio station, the first VHF program to recognize this music´s potential and rapidly spread it from Salvador throughout the whole country.

Carlinhos Brown crossed the borders of Bahia in 1985 when Caetano Veloso made him a member of his group "Banda Nova". Brown´s song "Meia-lua inteira", which Veloso included in his album "Estrangiero", made his name known both throughout and beyond Brazil. As percussionist he accompanied, among others, João Gilberto, Djavan and João Bosco on foreign tours. But instead of just enjoying life as a global session musician Carlinhos Brown returned home to Candeal where, in 1993, he founded "Timbalada", a large group with alternating formations playing music with an accent on Afro-bloco percussion and axé rhythms. Parallel to this he founded three additional percussion ensembles: "Lactomia", a children´s percussion project, "Bolacha Maria" (Women in Music) and "Gang Oga". He also initiated the aid project "Tá Rebocado" aimed at raising livings standards for the inhabitants of Candeal. Carlinhos Brown now supports dozens of music and educational projects.

There are now over 200 recordings of Carlinhos Brown´s pieces interpreted by various artists. These include Sergio Mendes, "Sepultura", Gal Costa, "Paralamas do Sucesso", Marisa Monte, Maria Bethania, Cassia Eller, Arnaldo Antunes, "Banda Eva", Daniela Mercury, Nando Reis and Xuxa, to name but a few.

In 1992 Carlinhos Brown was involved during the recording of Bill Laswell´s "Bahia Black-Ritual System" which also included such jazz legends as Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. After this he was invited to join in the opening event of the winter Olympics in Lillehammer (Norway). In a satellite broadcast he performed in Bahia in a simultaneous jam session with Chuck Berry in the USA, Youssou N’Dour in Senegal and Aboriginals in Australien. When Serjio Mendes saw the recording on television he got in touch immediately with Carlinhos Brown. In 1993 he then produced the CD "Brasileiro" with five songs by Carlinhos Brown which in 1994 won the "Grammy Award" (best recording/world music). In the same year Carlinhos Brown´s first album with "Timbalada" was declared the best Latin American CD by "Billboard Magazine".

Brown´ first solo album "Alfagamabetizado" appeared in 1996. It was produced by Wally Badarou and Arto Lindsay with guest appearances by Cartano Veloso, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethania and Marisa Monte, and was recorded and mixed in different studios in Salvador da Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and New York.

The track "A namorada" was a smash hit in Brazil, Japan and Chile and was also included in the soundtrack to "Speed 2". In his promotion tour for "Alfagamabetizado" Carlinhos Brown gave 150 live performances in Brazil, the USA and Europe.

Carlinhos Brown says that he imagines the whole orchestration of a piece in his mind first before attempting to reproduce it in the studio. His sound spectrum embraces African polyrhythms, Brazilian rhythms, samba funk and samba reggae, rock, rap, heavy metal and Cuban jazz. He sometimes strings Portuguese, French, Spanish and English words together in one sentence so that in the end they no longer make much sense.

In "Omelete Man", the pop album produced by Marisa Monte in 1998, Brown´s Afro-Brazilian percussion roots are reduced to a shockingly naked minimum. The listener is confronted with an eclectic, smooth mixture that pays tribute to Bob Marley, Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder and – perhaps more aptly – Lenny Kravitz. The results are remarkable, and some of the songs demonstrate Brown´s growing self-confidence as an experimental pop musician.

The north-east of Brazil, from where Carlinhos Brown originates, was made famous by Gilberto Gil, João Gilberto, Hermeto Pascoal and Caetano Veloso for its unique musical productions. But this wealth of music contrasts starkly with the poverty of the region. Brown, who as a native of Salvador da Bahia is normally classified under "Música Popular Brasileira", refuses to be categorised in this way. He prefers to define his music as "Música Popular Planetária".

Author: House of World Cultures


Antônio Carlos Santos de Freitas was born on 11 November 1962 in Candeal Pequeno, a district of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. At an early age he began learning to play percussion and discovering different musical styles. While working at Salvador´s WR Radio station he composed advertising jingles with an Afro-Brazilian beat, and consequently invented samba reggae. As he has a perfect command of a great variety of percussion instruments, Brown became the most sought-after musician in Bahia. In 1985 Caetano Veloso took him into his band. Brown´s composition "Meia Lua Inteira" which appeared on Veloso´s 1985 album "O Estangeiro" turned out a hit. After this Carlinhos Brown accompanied João Gilberto, Djavan and João Bosco on their world tours.
In the1990s Brown´s name became world famous as the founder and frontman of "Timbalada". This group consists of over 100 percussionists and singers, most of whom come from Candeal. In 1992 he took part alongside Chuck Berry in the USA, Youssou N’Dour in Senegal and Aborigenals in Australia in the satellite jam session transmission marking the opening of the winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Sérgio Mendes chose five tracks composed by Brown for his album "Brasiliero" (1993) which won a "Grammy Award" in 1994. In 1996 he played together with the Brazilian hard rock band "Sepultura" and recorded his first own solo album "Alfagamabetizado". In 1998 Marisa Monte "Omelete Man" with Brown. The album was recorded and mixed in Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and New York.


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